Record: 52 – 20 – 10
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This article was published 10/11/2017 (223 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
LAS VEGAS, Nevada – Perhaps they should take two Aspirin and call their doctor in the morning, because the Winnipeg Jets are the latest team to come down with whatever seems to being ailing visitors to Las Vegas so far this season.
Three full days in Sin City between games appeared to take a toll on the Jets, who were out-worked and out-played from the opening puck drop until the final whistle Friday night. The end result was a 5-2 loss to the expansion Golden Knights, who have now won seven of eight home games so far this year.
It's the first regulation loss for Winnipeg in nine games, and drops them to 8-4-3 on the year. They flew to Phoenix immediately following the game and will wrap up their road trip Saturday night by playing the Arizona Coyotes.
"Shower this one off. It was one of those nights that we didn’t really have many good players. We’ve liked the way we’ve played here lately and for most of the season really. We just have to get over this one and the great thing about it is we have an opportunity to go home from the road trip with four out of six points and flush this one down the toilet," captain Blake Wheeler said following the game.
His line had an especially rough night at the office. Wheeler and linemate Kyle Connor were minus-four, while centre Mark Scheifele was minus-three.
Players and coaches said all the right things about being prepared coming into the Vegas game following an off-day and then two straight days of practice. A few thousand Jets fans packed T-Mobile Arena and gave the team a rousing ovation when they took the ice and filled the rink with plenty of cheers and chants in the early-going, giving Las Vegas a hometown feel.
But it was Vegas which quickly took control and mostly silenced the visitors.
Lucas Sbisa brought the Golden Knights crowd alive by ripping a blast past Connor Hellebuyck less than seven minutes into the game. David Perron made it 2-0 with just under five minutes to play in the opening period. He beat Hellebuyck with a wrister on an odd-man rush that came after a costly pinch by Dustin Byfuglien.
"The way they play, their forecheck was tough to break. We had a really tough time getting out of our zone tonight. They are great at getting above the puck. Even when we made a clean pass up to the wings or the centre, there just wasn’t a whole lot of space to make a play," said Wheeler. "You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. We made a couple of mistakes that cost us, gave them a little too much space. At the end of the day, it was just one of those nights."
The Jets managed to grab a little momentum back less than a minute later when Adam Lowry tipped home a Dmitry Kulikov point shot for his first goal of the season. He was playing his second game since returning from a nine-game absence due to injury.
"It’s nice. You miss some time and you haven’t really contributed on the score sheet, it’s nice to get that out of the way. You don’t want to wait too long and start gripping the stick too tight. I was happy to see it go in, but it would have been nicer if it was in a win," Lowry said following the game.
Patrik Laine nearly tied it in the final minute when he ripped a shot off the post while on the power play.
It was a physical affair early on both sides, with 23 combined hits in the first period. That contributed to a raucous atmosphere inside the rink, with the crowd seemingly hanging on every play.
Mark Scheifele was robbed by Vegas goalie Maxime Lagace early in the second, as his one-timer was somehow kicked out at the last second.
Lowry was sent to the box on a curious interference call, where he had the puck and simply fended off a Vegas checker by knocking him down. Then Josh Morrissey took a tripping penalty, giving Vegas a five-on-three for 54 seconds. Winnipeg managed to kill it off, thanks to a couple big blocks from Kulikov and Matt Hendricks.
But rather than gain momentum, the wheels began to fall off as the game passed the midway mark. William Karlsson poked in a loose puck after being left all alone in front of Hellebuyck with just eight minutes to play.
"We were never able to contain any of the momentum that we built, even off the five-on-three penalty kill that was very good. Didn’t build on it because they scored right away. Second half of that second period we stopped being able to do some things we expect ourselves to be able to do. Thought it would be a tighter game than that, that we would make it a tighter game, but they finished on their chances," said coach Paul Maurice. "Their guy made a few real timely saves for them, I think that kept the momentum from shifting too much. And we weren’t as good as we have been."
Laine briefly got the Jets back within one with an absolute rocket on the power play, giving him goals in four consecutive games and now eight on the year.
But Vegas struck for two more quick ones in a 62 second span to pull away for good.
First, Kulikov made an atrocious giveaway to James Neal while attempting to clear the puck on a penalty kill, and Neal buried it past a surprised Hellebuyck. Then Karlsson got his second of the period when he was sent in all alone on a shorthanded breakaway.
"We just weren’t as tight, clearly our gap wasn’t as good as it has been," said Maurice. "I thought our hands, we struggled completing some basic things."
Steve Mason replaced Hellebuyck to start the third period, getting his first work in six games. Hellebuyck gave up the five goals on 21 shots and suffered his first regulation defeat of the season.
"It’s going to happen. I’m going to look to get better and I’m going to work harder tomorrow. I’m not going to let this phase me. But I’m going to use this as motivation," Hellebuyck said following the game. "Not that I wasn’t working hard, but it’s a little more motivation that I need to get back on the wheel and get back at it."
Mason was tested early as Winnipeg's defensive blunders continued, making a huge save on what was essentially a two-on-none. He stopped all five shots he faced.
"I didn’t think the puck was going for Helly early on, but didn’t want to pull him towards the end of the second period because I didn’t want to give the impression it was on him. He was like everybody else tonight, just a bit off from where they’ve been. But Mase is going in (Saturday) and that was the plan. So it was good to get him in, he made a hell of a save. He got some game action to get himself ready," said Maurice.
Meanwhile, Morrissey left the game late in the third period after blocking a shot and appearing to be in some pain. Maurice didn't have an immediate update on his status, saying more would be known Saturday.
"I don’t know if you can say we weren’t ready, as much as they’re a good team over there. We knew they were going to come out hard and they’re 7-1 at home now. It’s a credit to the way they play and the style they play," said Lowry. "Obviously, it didn’t seem like we had our hands and that can be frustrating, but you need to find ways to get things done when things aren’t going your way. You can say it was the three days off, but they played a good game and for whatever reason, we didn’t. We’ll be ready (Saturday) and we’re looking at this as an opportunity to bounce back. If you win two of three on the road, that’s a pretty successful road trip."
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.
Updated on Saturday, November 11, 2017 at 1:28 AM CST: Full write through