Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers each had a goal and an assist, while Connor Hellebuyck collected his league-leading sixth shutout of the season, moving one ahead of counterpart Marc-Andre Fleury, as the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 4-0 from Bell MTS Place Friday.
These same Golden Knights have left many Jets fans with bitter tastes in their mouths since the 2018 Western Confernece Final. After jumping ahead 1-0 in the opening game of the best-of-seven, the Jets lost four straight, and saw the Golden Knights move on to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Jets have not since played a game against Vegas like the one they did on May 12, 2018, in which they cooked up a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes of play, ultimately winning 4-2 in the series opener. On Friday, March 6, Winnipeg outdid itself, beating up the Golden Knights (who were 9-1-0 in their past 10 games) 4-0 while right smack-dab in the midst of a fight for the postseason.
The Jets came out angry, jumping ahead to a 1-0 lead just 32 seconds in, before adding a second goal before five minutes had ticked off the clock. Prior to the final horn of the opening period, Winnipeg had managed to score three goals on Vegas netminder Marc-Andre Fleury on just 13 shots.
With Manitobans Zach Whitecloud (Vegas), Ryan Reaves (Vegas) and Cody Eakin (Winnipeg) on the ice for the opening faceoff, Winnipeg’s Nikolaj Ehlers opened the scoring by blowing by Whitecloud, before banking the puck of Ryan Reaves’ skate and into the Golden Knights’ net, giving the Jets a very early lead.
The Knights were then penalized on a Nick Cousins tripping call 4:06 into the frame, where the Jets’ power play went to work. Neal Pionk fired a shot on net, where Patrik Laine collected the rebound for his 27th goal and 61st point of the season. The helper was also Pionk’s 22nd power play assist of the season, tying the franchise mark set by former Jets defenceman Toby Enstrom.
The Golden Knights did hit two posts in the frame, as Paul Stastny found iron on a deflection, while Chandler Stephenson put one off the outside of the pipe on a shot from the high slot late in the period. Winnipeg responded late as Kyle Connor found his 36th of the season on a beautiful two-on-one.
Jack Roslovic scooped up the puck in the Jets’ defensive zone after a brutal Nic Roy giveaway and quickly transitioned up ice. He waited to draw the Knights’ defender to his side before sliding the puck to Connor. KC fired it past Fleury with one swift flick of the wrist. It was the fifth-straight game in which Connor recorded one or more goals.
Despite a strong effort from Vegas in the second period, Hellebuyck and the Jets continued to shut the door on their southwestern neighbours. After trailing 13-12 in the shot department following the first period of play, the visitors jumped ahead to a 19-14 shot edge through the first five minutes of the second, but again failed to find the twine.
In fact, it was the Jets who managed the only goal of the frame, as Winnipeg cashed in on its second power play goal of the game. Ehlers found a wide-open Josh Morrissey at the point, who put a shot-pass on the stick of Mathieu Perreault. Perreault, who was making his return to the Jets’ lineup Friday, stopped the shot and put the rebound past Fluery for Winnipeg’s final goal of the game, and his first goal since November 23, 2019.
The third period saw Connor Hellebuyck shut things down, putting the finishing touches on his sixth shutout of the 2019-20 season, which moved him into first place in the league. He passed Marc-Andre Fleury, who now sits second with five such victories. It was Hellebuyck’s 20th shutout of his young career. He made 29 saves, while Fleury stopped 20 of 24 shots in the loss.
Winnipeg will now stick around town for another two days in preparation for another important Western Conference matchup on Monday as the Jets host the Arizona Coyotes in the final games of a three-game homestand. Following Monday’s 7:00 PM game, Winnipeg will head out west for a three-game road trip against the other three Canadian teams, beginning in Edmonton on Wednesday.