Game 4 was a pivotal moment in this series. The Winnipeg Jets had lost two straight games in which they generally outplayed the Vegas Golden Knights. Unfortunately, several boneheaded mistakes and dominant performances from Marc-Andre Fleury undid several strong performances. Did the Jets get out of their own way in what could be the turning point of the series, or was it too much to bet against this Vegas team?
Winnipeg needed to come out of this first period with the lead. More importantly, the Jets needed to find a way to pressure the Knights into more mistakes and poor decisions around the slot. Instead, the first frame saw neither team generating much at all, with almost no scoring chances created in the slot. The Jets held the edge in shot attempts, but most of the shots that reached the net weren’t terribly dangerous. The Golden Knights, as they have done for three straight games, scored first at the 2:25 mark.
Tyler Myers was chasing Ryan Carpenter back into the defensive zone and cross-checked Carpenter well after the puck had left Carpenter’s stick. The Jets PK went to work, or rather, didn’t, and William Karlsson potted a beautiful goal on a perfect cross-seam pass. Not much else happened, save for an awful call on Mark Scheifele after Scheifele retaliated against Brayden McNabb for a bad cross-check to the nose. The McNabb penalty was missed and the Jets had to kill yet another penalty. Spoiler: they haven’t been any good at penalty killing during the playoffs.
The period ended relatively uneventfully, which was probably a small blessing for Winnipeg. They needed to get this game back on track, because a game 4 loss would likely have spelled the end of Winnipeg’s quest for the Cup.
“Hello darkness my old friend.”
Winnipeg had better slot penetration this period and led in high-danger chances, but Vegas ultimately came out of the period with the lead. Both teams stretched the play out through the neutral zone, highlighting some impressive rushes from guys like Nate Schmidt. The Jets also continued to use Josh Morrissey and Dustin Byfuglien together, shifting away from Jacob Trouba and Morrissey in the first.
A Winnipeg power play in the middle of the period led to the Jets finally breaking the scoreboard and tying the game. Patrik Laine ripped a one-timer right past Fleury and all was right in the world. But of course, happiness cannot last, and Vegas scored 43 seconds later on a horrific bobble by Connor Hellebuyck. I love Hellebuyck, but he continues to cost Winnipeg some very soft, stoppable goals. It’s an aggravating trend when Fleury continues to stonewall the Jets at the other end. Not much else happened for the rest of the period, with Vegas holding the slight edge in shot attempts, but generally from further out. The Knights held the 2-1 lead going into the third period, and that creeping existential dread continued to set in.
I’m running out of words to express my disappointment. This was a period the Jets completely and utterly won, yet they lost. The Jets came on like a hurricane, generating shots and scoring chances all around Fleury. Winnipeg did absolutely everything it could to tie the game, and at the 5:34 mark, Myers zipped one right through Fleury’s pads. At 2-2, the Jets continued to press the matter and generated a ton of opportunities off the rush.
And yet, that old familiar dread reared its ugly head. A blocked Byfuglien shot led to a breakaway opportunity for Reilly Smith and he didn’t miss. Hellebuyck needed to make a crucial stop and, once again, failed. Vegas never relinquished the 3-2 lead, and Winnipeg’s empty net effort was quite lackluster. Folks, this series isn’t over, but you can probably guess that coming back home down 3-1 is less than ideal. The Jets have controlled so much of the play, and been rewarded for virtually nothing. The road to climb back in this series starts in Winnipeg on Sunday, and the Jets need to rally before it’s too late.
- It wasn’t a shutout, but this somehow feels worse. Every single mistake Winnipeg has made has been horrifically punished. I don’t get it.
- I won’t blame Hellebuyck because scoring less than 3 goals a game isn’t on him.....but he needs to make one of these saves on Vegas’ breakaways. It’s killing the Jets.
- Fleury has been sensational, and I’m running out of superlatives to heap on his play.
- Never bench Jack Roslovic again. He’s been great.
- Myers and Chiarot have been nearly unplayable at times. Every Vegas zone possession seems to happen with them on the ice.
- Morrissey-Byfuglien really doesn’t make any sense to me. Why break up Trouba-Morrissey?
- I’ve seen enough Caps-Pens playoff series to know how this story ends, but I’m desperately hoping Winnipeg rewrites this script.
- Sunday is the most important game in franchise history. Winnipeg will either cue the comeback, or look back in bitter disappointment on a tremendous season.
- Regardless of how this ends, the Jets have had a phenomenal year. Their window is just opening, and the roster can only improve.
- Go Jets Go!