Record: 52 – 20 – 10
The expansion Vegas Golden Knights have gone through a lot of firsts during the 2017-18 NHL season.
So far, their high success rate has been nothing short of phenomenal.
Inquiring minds, including those inside the Golden Knights' own locker room, are now curious to see how the team responds to its latest "new" experience — trailing in a playoff series.
Vegas is down 1-0 in the best-of-seven Western Conference Final to the Winnipeg Jets after dropping a 4-2 decision Saturday night at Bell MTS Place.
Game 2 is set for 7 p.m. tonight at the downtown Winnipeg arena.
Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault characterized it as a "must-win" for the visitors.
"You can't lose your first two games in the playoffs, especially against a team like that," said Marchessault, who picked up a pair of assists in the defeat and leads the club with 13 points. "Tonight's going to be a big game for us. It's going to determine a lot of the character in this locker room. We definitely need to respond after a game like that."
The Golden Knights blitzed the Los Angeles Kings four straight in their opening-round series and never trailed in Round 2, knocking off the San Jose Sharks four games to two.
"I think we're still a confident group, it's just one game. Home advantage in the playoff is huge and (Winnipeg) worked all season to have it and they took advantage of it last game," said Marchessault. "But tonight we have to come in and play a hard game on the road, and we're focusing on that."
Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant might be considering changes to his lineup, dressing either winger Tomas Tatar or Tomas Nosek, or both.
He said withstanding an early charge by the Jets in their raucous home rink will be the key tonight.
"I just think the commitment to make a big effort, everyone has to be a little bit better, a little more competitive. System-wise, there's nothing really different," said Gallant. "We have to get off to a better start, that's the biggest thing. We can't be behind 3-0 against this team. We have to get off to a better start."
Jets head coach Paul Maurice expects Vegas to mount a solid push tonight.
"We expect them to be driving real hard in this game. I think it's going to be a really, really tight game. I don't think there's going to be as much offence going both ways," said Maurice. "It will be a more physical game and will be more contested in the 10-foot area (around the puck). I'm not sure you're getting up and down the ice. (Game 1) got into a track meet at times. I don't think you're going to see that tonight."
The Jets will ice the same lineup that drew first blood in the series, the precursor to the Stanley Cup final.
Winnipeg surged to a quick 3-0 before the game was even eight minutes old as Dustin Byfuglien scored his fifth of the post-season, Patrik Laine fired his fourth and Joel Armia notched his second. NHL playoff goal-scoring leader Mark Scheifele scored his 12th later in the game.
Brayden McNabb and William Karlsson replied for the Golden Knights.
"Excitement, the start of a new series," said Winnipeg blue-liner Tyler Myers, asked for his take on the lightning-quick start. "I thought we did a great job in the room here getting ourselves mentally wired, coming of a quick turnaround from the Nashville series. It was a good way to start and we just want to build off it."
The Jets upended the Minnesota Wild 4-1 in their first-round series and then defeated the Predators 5-1 in Game 7 in Nashville last Thursday to qualify for the conference final.
Myers said his squad is anticipating a tough response from a desperate Vegas team.
"Oh yeah, we expect them to come out pretty strong. Down a game, they’re gonna come out with their best and we’re gonna have to do the same in our room and just build off last game," he said.
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).