Vegas overcomes slow start to beat Jets 5-2 in Game 2

The Winnipeg Jets are heading home with a split after dropping Game 2 of their first round playoff series in Vegas 5-2 Thursday night.

The Golden Knights would get the first power play chance of the game and for a brief moment they thought they had the game’s opening goal.

Chander Stephenson blasted a one-timer on goal from the face-off dot but Connor Hellebuyck snatched the puck out of the air with his glove right as it reached the goal line. Officials look a quick look at the replay to confirm that the puck never went in.

Not long after that, Winnipeg had a chance with the man advantage and they made it count.

After the first unit put lots of pressure on Laurent Brossoit, the second unit came out, won a face-off and Adam Lowry tipped a Neal Pionk point shot past Brossoit to open the scoring at the 9:18 mark, the third straight goal for Lowry after he scored two late ones in Game 1.

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Kyle Connor then had two great opportunities to double Winnipeg’s lead but he was denied by Brossoit on a partial breakaway and then had his stick checked by Brayden McNabb as he attempted to bang a rebound into an open net, sending his shot harmlessly into Brossoit.

Defensively, the Jets picked up where they left off in Game 1. After the Knights managed just two shots in the third period Tuesday night, they put only two on Hellebuyck in the first 12 minutes Thursday.

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After each side had an unsuccessful power play later in the first, Vegas got a third crack with the man advantage when Nino Niederreiter took a slashing penalty with 72 seconds to go in the frame, but again Vegas struggled to get set up before the horn sounded.

Winnipeg wound up with a 17-8 edge in shots on goal through 20 minutes and a 1-0 lead.

The power play time ran out for Vegas early in the second but they began to put more pressure on the Jets, leading to their opening goal just shy of the six minute mark.

After a long shift in the Winnipeg end, the puck pinballed in the slot amongst several players from both teams. Nobody could get a handle on it until William Karlsson did as he collected the puck and snapped a wrister all in one motion, beating Hellebuyck to level the game with his second of the series.

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Vegas would grab their first lead of the series about five minutes later when Jack Eichel tipped an Alex Pietrangelo point shot past Hellebuyck at the 10:25 mark for his first career playoff goal.

The Knights kept the pressure up, looking to extend the lead but the Jets’ fourth line took was able to get an unlikely tying goal.

As Kevin Stenlund carried the puck through the neutral zone, Vegas defence man Brayden McNabb stumbled and fell near centre ice, giving the Jets an odd-man rush.

Stenlund dished the puck to the wing to Saku Maenalanen, who sent it back towards the front of the net where a hard-charging Stenlund deflected the pass high over Brossoit to tie the game with 3:59 left in the second

That kicked off a stretch of exciting, wide-open hockey but neither side could add to their total as the game stayed deadlocked at two through 40 minutes.

Vegas managed to tie the shot total at 27 through two periods, outshooting the Jets 19-10 in the second, and they continued to control play in the third as they poured shots on Hellebuyck.

That paid off at the 5:37 mark when a point shot from Pietrangelo produced a juicy rebound that was put home by Stephenson, who beat Mark Scheifele to the front of the net to put Vegas back in front 3-2.

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Captain Mark Stone put the game on ice when he scored his first goal Jan. 5 following a long absence due to back surgery. After barely staying onside, Stone drove right to the crease and deposited a great feed from Stephenson into the back of the net with 6:59 remaining.

Stone grabbed his second of the night with 2:30 left when Karlsson won a puck battle behind the Winnipeg net and fed Stone in the slot where his shot deflected off the stick of Nate Schmidt and fluttered over Hellebuyck’s shoulder.

The Knights ended up outshooting the Jets 39-33 in the game, including a 31-16 disparity over the final 40 minutes to even the series.

Brossoit was rock solid for Vegas, turning aside 31 shots while Hellebuyck didn’t get a ton of help in making 34 stops.

The series now shifts to Winnipeg for Game 3 Saturday afternoon. Pregame coverage on 680 CJOB starts at 1 p.m. with the puck dropping shortly after 3 p.m.

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