In a battle between first place teams in Winnipeg, the Jets fell short in a topsy-turvy 6-5 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night.
The Golden Knights swept the three-game season series as the Jets lost back-to-back games for just the second time this season.
The lead switched hands several different times, but the Knights went up for good with just over two minutes left, before scoring into the empty net to seal the deal. Mark Scheifele scored his third goal of the game with less than two seconds left to make the score a little more respectable.
“It was just kinda a back and forth,” said Scheifele. “We scored one and then let off the gas pedal a little bit. And then gave them a little bit of life, and then battled again, and just kinda one of those games that kinda was back and forth, and we just kinda needed to stick with our game.”
Winnipegger Mark Stone netted a pair of goals for Vegas to get his 500th career NHL point. Jonathan Marchessault also scored twice, while Chandler Stephenson had four assists for the Knights in the victory.
The Jets had a strong start as Scheifele gave them the lead midway through the first period, but Vegas scored just two minutes later and then added a key marker with just two seconds left in the period to give them the lead going to the dressing rooms.
“I think early we were great,” Scheifele said. “Our start was fantastic and got away from it for a little bit and let them get into the game and let them get their legs.”
The Jets are now 7-2 in games after a loss this season.
“They’re a good hockey club. We’re a good hockey (club),” said Jets head coach Rick Bowness. “That was a hell of a hockey game. And give their goalie credit. Our last power play in the third, he made four grade A’s. Give him credit for that.
“So, that was a hell of a hockey game. It could have gone either way, clearly. We battled hard. We showed we can certainly play with them and the best teams in the league and we’re going to continue to stay in that fight.”
Adin Hill made 29 saves for the Golden Knights.
Josh Morrissey and Kyle Connor each had one assist to extend their point streaks to six games. Morrissey’s assist was his 27th of the season which is a new career best and it’s only December.
Pierre-Luc Dubois didn’t play for much of the third period, and the head coach said Dubois and a number of other players are battling an illness.
“He’s really sick,” said Bowness. “He’s under the weather big time. There’s a few other guys, we got a couple guys on IV (intravenous) in there right now.”
Forward Kevin Stenlund made his Jets debut after getting recalled from the Manitoba Moose earlier on Tuesday.
Coming off a 5-2 home loss to Washington Sunday, the Jets got off to a solid start.
After controlling play for most of the first ten minutes, Winnipeg got on the board first when a Morrissey point shot redirected off Scheifele and past Hill at 9:22.
But it didn’t take long for Vegas to counter. After Morrissey got back to snuff out a potential Reilly Smith breakaway, Smith hit a trailing Daniil Miromanov whose wrister through a screen beat Connor Hellebuyck to tie the game at the 11:30 mark.
It was the first career goal for Miromanov, playing in his 17th NHL game.
After that goal, the ice tilted in Vegas’ favour but Hellebuyck stood tall until the final seconds of the period.
He was unable to cleanly handle a point shot from Nicolas Hague, with the rebound falling right to an unchecked Stone right in front of the net. The Winnipegger knocked it home to give the visitors a 2-1 lead with just 1.6 seconds remaining.
Miromanov nearly got his second of the game about seven minutes into the middle frame when he was allowed to walk into the slot and whip one on goal that snuck through Hellebuyck but trickled just past the post.
Stephenson, skating through the crease, was also unable to tuck the loose puck home so Vegas’ lead stayed at one.
Winnipeg drew level at 11:16 when Morgan Barron took two tries to bang home a rebound, hitting the post on his first attempt but roofing it over Hill’s pad on the second try to tie the game.
But Stone struck again four minutes later. Nate Schmidt made a bad pass in the neutral zone that sprung Stephenson on a break, and while Stephenson whiffed on a centering pass, the changeup threw off Hellebuyck’s timing, allowing Stone to find it and deposit his second of the night to restore the Golden Knights lead.
It lasted 39 seconds.
Sam Gagner tipped a Brenden Dillon point shot past Hill to make it 3-3. Stenlund picked up an assist on the play in his Winnipeg debut.
With 21 seconds left in the period, Alec Martinez took a slashing penalty that he would regret early in the third.
On the ensuing power play, Connor slid a perfect cross-ice pass to the stick of Scheifele, who blasted it short-side on Hill to give the Jets the lead back.
Later in the period, it was Blake Wheeler who had to watch from the box as his team surrendered a goal as he took a delay of game penalty for sending the puck over the glass.
Marchessault took a shot from the top of the faceoff circle that eluded Hellebuyck blocker-side and leveled the score again.
Winnipeg came close to regaining the lead with a power play later in the period but couldn’t find the back of the net, and the tension was further ratcheted up when Neal Pionk took a high-sticking penalty with 3:03 to go.
After the Jets got the initial clear, the Golden Knights regained possession and set up the cycle, leading to a Marchessault one-timer that beat Hellebuyck to give Vegas the lead with 2:16 remaining.
Would this roller-coaster of a game have one last twist?
Winnipeg pulled Hellebuyck with just over 90 seconds left for one last push, but the Knights immediately got the puck, worked it up the ice and William Karlsson hit the empty net to put the game on ice.
After thousands of fans decided to leave, Scheifele completed the hat-trick, but there was little celebration from the Jets.
The Jets will try to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season when the Predators come to town Thursday. Pre-game coverage on 680 CJOB begins at 5 p.m. with puck-drop just after 7 p.m.
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