WINNIPEG — Blake Wheeler liked 57 minutes of Monday’s game between Winnipeg and Vegas. The other three minutes, not so much.
Tomas Tatar and Jonathan Marchessault scored twice for the Golden Knights late in the first period to jumpstart the visitors to a 3-1 victory that tied the Western Conference final series heading into Game 3 in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
“There was about 57 minutes of that game that was pretty good for us,” Wheeler said. “Three minutes of it got away from us. They could have scored four goals in three minutes. We just gotta stay with it better.”
Tatar and Marchessault, with his first of two goals in the game, beat goalie Connor Hellebuyck in a four-minute span.
Tatar’s shot hit the post, he got the puck back and then slid it around the post past Hellebuyck, who finished with 25 saves.
Marchessault made it 2-0 at 17:22 after a Winnipeg turnover during a line change, beating Hellebuyck with a backhand shot through his pads. Vegas outshot the Jets 13-11 in the opening period.
Winnipeg veteran forward Paul Stastny took responsibility for some of his team’s errors.
“The first goal was a couple of turnovers,” Stastny said. “I turned it over by the net and (Hellebuyck) makes a good save, and then I kind of tried to jump over him and I kind of actually take his (stick) knob so I get him twisted a little bit.
“The second goal was the same thing. It was just a turnover, kind of a lack of communication with the line change. So, two goals right there.”
Kyle Connor scored for Winnipeg on the power play at 7:17 of the third when his angled shot at Marc-Andre Fleury hit the goalie’s chest and went under him. The veteran netminder finished with 30 saves.
The Jets’ lone goal was only the third time in 14 playoff games they’ve been held to one goal or less. However, Winnipeg has scored 48 goals so far, one ahead of the Washington Capitals.
Marchessault supplied his sixth goal of the playoffs at 8:45 of the third to make it 3-1. Reilly Smith had a pair of assists.
“We didn’t do anything clean, we didn’t do anything quickly,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said. “That part I think was true for the whole game and we want to be better there.”
Winnipeg defenceman Jacob Trouba said they knew the Golden Knights would come out quicker in this game. They matched the pace, but only for a while.
“I don’t think anybody in here minded our start. We liked it,” Trouba said. “We had some good chances, they capitalized on theirs.”
The loss dropped Winnipeg’s record on home ice to 5-3-0, but they’ve also went 4-2 on the road.
“They’re a good team,” Wheeler said. “Sometimes the bounces are going to go their way, sometimes they’re going to go our way. It’s just a matter of getting back on it next game.”
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press