LAS VEGAS — Jonathan Marchessault scored two goals — including an empty-netter in the closing seconds — to lead the Vegas Golden Knights to a 4-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets in Game 3 of the Western Conference final Wednesday night.
Vegas took a 2-1 series lead and is now two wins from advancing to the Stanley Cup final. The Golden Knights improved to 5-1 at home in the playoffs, and host Game 4 on Friday night.
James Neal and Alex Tuch also scored for Vegas, while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 33 shots.
Mark Scheifele scored both of Winnipeg’s goals and has a playoff-leading 14 goals in 15 postseason games. Connor Hellebuyck had 26 saves for the Jets, who arrived in Las Vegas having outscored their opposition 23-15 in road games during the playoffs.
Marchessault scored his seventh goal of the playoffs just 35 seconds into the game as he took a pass from Brayden McNabb and went forehand-backhand to slip the puck past Hellebuyck, giving the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead.
Scheifele tied it with a double-deflection off his stick and calf that went past Fleury. But 12 seconds later, Neal answered when Hellebuyck misplayed the puck behind his net and Erik Haula dished a perfect pass, giving the Knights a 2-1 lead.
Tuch notched his fifth goal of the playoffs to push the lead to 3-1 after Neal fed him with a nifty pass from behind the net.
Scheifele netted his second goal of the game just 18 seconds into the third period to cut Vegas’ lead to one, but Winnipeg couldn’t overcome the Golden Knights’ speed and execution, despite outplaying them over the final 20 minutes.
Fleury, who bounced back after a loss in Game 1 to stop 30 of 31 shots in Game 2, made several huge saves late in the game to perserve Vegas’ lead. After stonewalling Tyler Myers’ breakaway attempt with 11:50 left in the game, he stymied Scheifele’s back-to-back shot with 9:30 remaining. Less than two minutes later, he smothered the puck with a slew of players piled near the crease.
Winnipeg pulled Hellebuyck with 1:03 left, but Marchessault’s empty-netter with 3 seconds left sealed the win.
The Jets had scored a power play goal in 11 of the 13 playoff games in which they had a man advantage, but was 0 for 2 with a man advantage.
Winnipeg hadn’t lost back-to-back games during the playoffs. The last time it dropped consecutive games was a three-game losing streak (0-2-1) from Mar. 10-13.
NOTES: Teams that take a 2-1 lead in the conference final (or NHL semifinals) have won the series 35 of 43 times (81.4 percent) since 1975. … While ticket prices for Friday’s Game 4 spiked as high as $5,000 on Monday, they ranged between $259 and $2,500 as the puck dropped for Game 3. … The Golden Knights welcomed the family of Humboldt Broncos head coach and GM Darcy Haugan, wife Christina and children Carson and Jackson. … With his two goals, Scheifele now owns the NHL record for most goals scored on the road in a single playoffs with 11, surpassing Sidney Crosby and Joe Mullen, each with 10. … With 53 victories, Hellebuyck remains one shy of tying the most single-season wins by a goaltender, in both the regular season and playoffs, held by Washington’s Braden Holtby (54 in 2015-16).
By W.G. RAMIREZ,By Associated Press – published on STL.News by St. Louis Media, LLC (A.S)