The Jets allowed only two shots on goal in the final period, punctuating the defensive performance that was buttressed by Adam Lowry's two goals and Blake Wheeler's three points in Winnipeg's 5-1 victory in Game 1 of the first-round series.
The Jets allowed only 17 shots on goal for the game, the fewest the Knights have had all season.
“A big part of our game is pressuring the puck carrier and not give them a whole lot of time to make plays,” Winnipeg coach Rick Bowness said. “They're a very good team on the rush. They look for that second wave, so I thought our forwards did a great job back-tracking and taking away those guys.”
Wheeler had a goal and two assists for the Jets, Pierre-Luc Dubois had a goal an assist, Kyle Connor also scored, and Nino Niederreiter had two assists. Connor Hellebuyck made 16 saves.
William Karlsson scored for the Golden Knights, who suffered their first regulation loss in nine games. It also was the first regulation loss for Vegas goalie Laurent Brossoit, who went 7-0-3 in the regular season. He stopped 26 shots.
“The thing we need to address is it’s playoff hockey," Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said. "You needed an intensity level that was greater than the one we had. ... But I’ll say this, I don’t think they were doing anything special, either. They get full value for the win, don't get me wrong. They deserved to win and they did, but some of it was self-inflicted.”
Game 2 is Thursday night in Las Vegas.
Vegas entered the game as the top seed in the Western Conference, and the Jets were the last team in the conference to get in the playoffs. But Winnipeg is 6-2 in its past eight games and continued the momentum into Tuesday.
The Jets had 14 shots on goal in the first period, but failed to get anything past Brossoit even with back-to-back power plays at one point. Vegas, which blocked 13 shots, also survived a big scramble in the crease in which Mason Appleton could've poked the puck into the open net, but couldn't get his stick on it.
Teammate Morgan Barron took a skate to his face from Brossoit on the play as the bodies piled up in pursuit of the puck. He went to the locker room and received more than 75 stitches before returning in the second period wearing a full cage on his head.
The Jets broke through with goals from Connor and Dubois 1:02 apart early in the second period to take a 2-0 lead. Both goals came from the Jets' first line, and Bowness said he likes to have the scoring line quickly go back out there.
“I think as soon as you get off, you've got to be ready to go back there whether it’s 45 seconds later of five minutes later,” Dubois said. “We know we have to keep the momentum on our side.”
Karlsson put the Knights on the scoreboard with 4:11 left, but Wheeler made it a two-goal lead again 3:53 into the third period.
Lowry scored twice in the final 1:21, one on an empty-netter.
EHLERS HELD OUT
Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers, who has an upper-body injury, did not play. Ehlers said Saturday he would be ready and on Monday reiterated he felt “very good,” though Bowness had maintained he was day to day.
“There wasn't necessarily a setback, but nor was the progress that we had hoped,” Bowness said. “We're not going to put a player on the ice that isn't close to 100% and put him in a vulnerable position where he could have a setback.”
Bowness said Ehlers will be re-evaluated before Game 2.
STONE RUSTY IN RETURN
This was Knights captain Mark Stone's first game since injuring his back Jan. 12. He underwent surgery Jan. 31 and was cleared to play Monday.
Stone was minus-3 in 21 minutes.
“He looked rusty,” Cassidy said. “We expected that. ... It’s going to take Mark some time to get going and his linemates are going to have to kind of pull through for him a little bit until he finds his timing. We knew that, so I'm not going to judge Stoney other than he's healthy and ready to play."
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