April 25, 2019

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Jets lay golden goose egg in 5-0 loss to Vegas

Vegas Golden Knights right wing Reilly Smith scores on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Laurent Brossoit during the first period Thursday in Las Vegas.

(AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER)

Vegas Golden Knights right wing Reilly Smith scores on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Laurent Brossoit during the first period Thursday in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS – The Winnipeg Jets weren't in California any more.

The Jets cruised to a couple of victories against the lowly Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks earlier this week but were in a duel with a foe from a different stratosphere Thursday night.

While the playoff hopes of the So-Cal clubs fizzled out long ago, the Vegas Golden Knights are sizzling and resemble a legitimate Stanley Cup contender in every way.

The high-rollers from The Strip struck early and often in front of a wild T-Mobile Arena crowd, skating away with a 5-0 triumph over the Jets in a surprising Western Conference mismatch. It was the Golden Knights' 10th win in their last 11 games.

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LAS VEGAS – The Winnipeg Jets weren't in California any more.

The Jets cruised to a couple of victories against the lowly Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks earlier this week but were in a duel with a foe from a different stratosphere Thursday night.

Vegas Golden Knights centre Brandon Pirri checks Winnipeg Jets centre Kevin Hayes into the boards during the first period Thursday in Las Vegas.

(AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER)

Vegas Golden Knights centre Brandon Pirri checks Winnipeg Jets centre Kevin Hayes into the boards during the first period Thursday in Las Vegas.

While the playoff hopes of the So-Cal clubs fizzled out long ago, the Vegas Golden Knights are sizzling and resemble a legitimate Stanley Cup contender in every way.

The high-rollers from The Strip struck early and often in front of a wild T-Mobile Arena crowd, skating away with a 5-0 triumph over the Jets in a surprising Western Conference mismatch. It was the Golden Knights' 10th win in their last 11 games.

Vegas, undeniably bigger, faster and stronger on this night, upped its record in the Pacific Divsion to 42-27-5, while Winnipeg dropped to 44-26-4 but still has a two-point edge in the Central Division on the second-place Nashville Predators with a game in hand. Nashville fell 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a shootout Thursday.

Winnipeg also botched a chance to clinch a playoff spot.

William Karlsson and Reilly each supplied first-period goals before the nine-minute mark.

"They come out hard, good teams always do. We do in our building, too. (A deficit) of 2-0 is a tough way to start a game but it’s not death sentence. We wanted to shut the game down from there and try to keep them at that score and just weren’t able to do it," said Jets captain Blake Wheeler.

"They played with a lot of speed, they were attacking us with a lot of speed. Their sticks were good. It wasn’t so much about what we weren’t able to do offensively, we just weren’t about to slow them down in the other end and create some turnover and go the other way. They had way too many rushes and backed us off way too far and got some good looks."

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Malcolm Subban blocks shot by the Winnipeg Jets during the first period.

(AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER)

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Malcolm Subban blocks shot by the Winnipeg Jets during the first period.

Karlsson fired his 21st and 22nd goals, and Smith added his 16th and 17th as Vegas halted Winnipeg's four-game winning streak on a night when Jets starter Laurent Brossoit let a couple of shots leak through before giving way to an injury.

Tomas Nosek's short-handed tally at 6:00 of the second period signalled the end of Brossoit's night. He skated to the bench and was replaced by Connor Hellebuyck. Head coach Paul Maurice later said Brossoit will have a lower-body injury assessed back home this weekend.

Vegas' star goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is on the mend, so Malcolm Subban received the start and turned aside all 20 shots he faced to register the first-ever shutout of his NHL career.

No disrespect to the young netminder but Winnipeg didn't exactly make him work for it. Just 24 hours after blanking the Ducks, the Jets struggled mightily through 40 minutes, and had nothing left in the tank for any kind of late push from which to draw some positive vibes.

"We had a tough night. We got ourselves into a hole early," said Maurice. "If we’d been able to score at the 2-0 mark on the power play we might have been able to capture some energy but we weren’t able to do that and then it was over pretty quick by the end of the second.

Vegas Golden Knights centre William Karlsson, middle, celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Winnipeg Jets during the second period.

(AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER)

Vegas Golden Knights centre William Karlsson, middle, celebrates with teammates after scoring against the Winnipeg Jets during the second period.

"There wasn’t anything we were doing that was sharp or crisp or fast. We didn’t have a whole lot going on tonight. I don’t know that there were a lot of really good chances to score… we couldn’t generate a whole lot here tonight."

The Golden Knights, powered by as formidable a forward group as any in the NHL, were tenacious on the forecheck and heavy on the body. They knocked down pucks with regularity, making it difficult for the Jets to break out.

The visitors barely had room to move in the neutral zone, and when they finally had possession deep in enemy territory they were kept to the perimeter by a smart Vegas squad.

"It wasn’t our best game by any means and there was a whole lot not going right for us," said Bryan Little. "They played a really good game, they executed what they wanted to do and it was frustrating at times. It was hard to get a lot of free ice and a lot of chances out there."

The anthems – including a boisterous 'True North' bark from fans from the Great White North – were barely over when Wheeler and newest Knight, Mark Stone, dropped the mitts. Wheeler scored a takedown over the Winnipeg product at the 29-second mark – a microscopic victory in the scheme of things.

Vegas Golden Knights right wing Mark Stone tries to evade Winnipeg Jets defenceman Sami Niku during the second period.

(AP PHOTO/JOHN LOCHER)

Vegas Golden Knights right wing Mark Stone tries to evade Winnipeg Jets defenceman Sami Niku during the second period.

All the good defensive deeds the Jets performed during their first two stops of the southern swing were nowhere to be found. They played under duress all night long and served up some ugly giveaways.

Blue-liner JoeMorrow, playing just his second game after missing 14 with an injury, fumbled the puck at the faceoff dot and ex-Jet Paul Stastny quickly set up Smith for a 2-0 lead before the midway mark of the opening period.

In the second, Stastny sent Nosek scampering away on a semi-breakway with Vegas a man short. Nosek's shot from the top of the circle squeezed through Brossoit at the six-minute mark. Hellebuyck fared no better in relief as Reilly and Karlsson each ripped their second goals of the game to build a five-goal cushion.  

Winnipeg had allowed only six goals in his four previous outings.

Still, the team has chalked up five wins in its last eight and can create some space on the Predators this weekend. The Jets return home for their last four home games of the regular season. They host Nashville on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Bell MTS Place.

"We just won four straight (prior to the stop in Vegas), we’re in first place in our division, have Nashville coming into our building, a lot to be excited about," offered Wheeler.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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History

Updated on Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 11:44 PM CDT: Fixes photo caption

12:29 AM: Final version adds post-game quotes.

March 22, 2019 at 6:37 AM: Adds that Winnipeg botched a chance to clinch a playoff spot.

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