LAS VEGAS — Blake Wheeler had a goal and two assists for the Winnipeg Jets in a 5-1 win against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of the Western Conference First Round at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday.
“We were prepared for a fast start, and the other times we played here this year, they buzzed us really early and we had a tough time getting our game going,” Wheeler said. “We wanted to try to assert ourselves and be aggressive early on, and after that first period we were feeling pretty good about our game. “
Adam Lowry scored twice, Pierre-Luc Dubois had a goal and an assist, and Connor Hellebuyck made 16 saves for Winnipeg, which is the second wild card from the West.
“Tonight was clearly the best game we played against them for the full 60 minutes (this season),” Jets coach Rick Bowness said. “Now, they’re a great hockey club, they’re going to get momentum, so I found tonight we bent a little bit but didn’t break.”
Video: [email protected], Gm1: Dubois doubles the lead from the circle
Winnipeg forward Morgan Barron briefly left after being cut in the face by the blade of Laurent Brossoit during a scrum in the first period. He returned during the second period after receiving more than 75 stitches and finished the game with three shots and five hits in 10:44 of ice time.
“It looked like he got attacked by a shark,” Lowry said. “We’re all so worried about the puck crossing the line, and then all of a sudden we see a trail of blood basically from the crease all the way to the bench. … To sit on the table, get stitched up and miss basically an hour of action and come back speaks volumes to his heart.”
[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Jets series coverage]
William Karlsson scored, and Brossoit made 26 saves for Vegas, which is the top seed from the West.
Game 2 of the best-of-7 series will be here on Thursday.
“It’s one game,” said Golden Knights captain Mark Stone, who returned after missing the final 39 games of the regular season because of a back injury. “Sometimes you flush it and go. We definitely have to look and see what we’re doing good and what we’re doing wrong.”
Video: [email protected], Gm1: Connor buries one-timer from slot
Kyle Connor gave the Jets a 1-0 lead at 1:24 of the second period, one-timing a pass from Dubois in the high slot.
Dubois then made it 2-0 at 2:26. After jumping off the bench, he picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, skated into the left face-off circle and beat Brossoit short side.
“I like to throw anybody who scores a goal to go right back with them,” Bowness said. “They’re feeling good about themselves. It was a short shift when they scored. We always like to go back to a line that scored.”
Video: [email protected], Gm1: Karlsson puts a shot into the corner
Karlsson cut it to 2-1 at 15:49. He got a step on Winnipeg defenseman Brenden Dillon, took a saucer pass from Ivan Barbashev, and scored glove side from in front.
Wheeler pushed the lead to 3-1 at 3:53 of the third period with a backhand five-hole from the high slot.
“They scored a big goal there toward the end of the second period and it gave them some momentum, the crowd was into it,” Wheeler said. “The end of the period came at a good time for us. We were able to reset. It was good to have a good third.
“We played well. It was the way we wanted to play and we know what to expect for Game 2. This team is probably the best team in the League at home in the first period, so the start of the next game is going to be huge.”
Video: [email protected], Gm1: Wheeler extends lead with backhand
Lowry shot into an empty net to make it 4-1 at 18:39 before scoring a power-play goal at 19:41 for the 5-1 final.
Winnipeg outshot Vegas 10-2 in the third period.
“Offensively, we knew they weren’t going to give up much. This is what they are,” Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said. “If you’re not prepared to play a game behind their [defensemen] and forecheck turnovers, then loosen them up and then get your rush chances, then it’s going to be a challenge.”
NOTES: Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers did not play because of an upper-body injury. “There wasn’t necessarily a setback, but nor was there the progress we hoped. We’re not going to put a player on the ice who’s not close to 100 percent,” Bowness said. “It’ll be the same Thursday.” … Golden Knights forward Jack Eichel was minus-3 in 20:29 of ice time in his Stanley Cup Playoff debut.
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