Bowness 'disappointed & disgusted' as Jets' season ends with 4-1 loss in Vegas

In the 2018 Western Conference Final, a postseason run that carried so much promise ended abruptly for the Winnipeg Jets, losing in five games to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Five years later, with much of the same core still intact, the Jets have been once again dispatched by Vegas in five games to end a season that could mark the end of the team’s competitive window.

A 4-1 loss in Vegas Thursday night capped off the team’s 2022-23 campaign, one that saw the team atop the West in January, only to stumble down the stretch, squeak into the playoffs and become the only team not to last more than five games in the postseason.

“I’m so disappointed and disgusted right now,” Jets head coach Rick Bowness said after their elimination. “No push back, but it’s the same crap we saw in February, it was. As soon we were challenging for first place and teams were coming after us, we had no push back. This series we had no pushback. Their better players were so much better than ours, it’s not even close.

“We got to push back. There’s got to be a push back, there’s got to be pride. You got to be able to push back when things aren’t going your way. We had no push back. Their better players were so much better than ours tonight, they deserved to win.”

The Golden Knights scored just over a minute into the game and the Jets had no response until they were trailing by four goals when the outcome was already pretty much determined. It took the Jets more than eight minutes just to register their first shot of the game.

“Not an effort thing,” said defenceman Brenden Dillon. “I don’t know, just frustrating. We had some looks and it seems like they capitalized on their chances for sure. We just couldn’t get one when we needed to.”

The Jets have now lost eight of their last nine playoff games.

“You work so hard to get into the playoffs and anything can happen,” said forward Adam Lowry. “We had a lot of belief in this group and a lot of belief in the players we have, the people we have on this team that we could challenge Vegas and hopefully go on a run. Unfortunately injuries, a bounce here or there, and we’re done in five.

“We’re disappointed with the results. We battled so hard to get to the playoffs. You want to go on a run and you want to make a difference. You kinda want to make something magical happen and we didn’t.”

The Jets were playing without Josh Morrissey and Mark Scheifele who both missed the elimination game with injuries.

Nikolaj Ehlers returned to the lineup after missing the first four games of the series. But he still wasn’t ready to reveal what was ailing him after the end of their season.

“I felt good enough to be out there,” said Ehlers. “That was yesterday that I felt pretty good. We talked about it and yeah.”

Game 5 got off to a terrible start for the Jets when they failed to clear the zone in the opening minute. Brett Howden corralled the puck at the point, he passed it to Mark Stone who found Chander Stephenson wide open for a back-door tap-in just 50 seconds into the contest.

The Jets managed to keep things fairly clean in their own end for the duration of the first but weren’t really able to generate much in the Vegas zone.

If there was any hope of a turnaround after 20 minutes, it vanished quickly in the second.

After Winnipeg again failed to clear the zone, Stone batted a loose puck to himself, caught it, then dropped it in the slot where he was unchecked and ripped a shot over the glove of Hellebuyck to make it 2-0 just 42 seconds into the period.

Four minutes later, William Karlsson escaped coverage, parked himself in front of the Jets goal and banged in a pass from Michael Amadio to make it 3-0.

Flash ahead another four minutes and it was Stephenson getting his second of the game on the power play to make it 4-0, making it abundantly clear that this was going to be the final game of Winnipeg’s season.

The Jets got a great chance to get on the board late in the second when a shot in close from Adam Lowry was robbed by the glove of Laurent Brossoit.

After several uneventful minutes, Winnipeg decided to pull Hellebuyck for an extra attacker with eight minutes to go, needing a massive rally.

The Jets started peppering Brossoit with shots and finally got one past the Vegas netminder with 5:38 to go when Blake Wheeler found Kyle Connor in front of the goal to make it 4-1 Vegas.

Winnipeg kept the pressure up, doing a good job of keeping the puck in the zone, leading to a goal from Pierre-Luc Dubois as he knocked home a rebound with 2:35 remaining.

Vegas challenged the goal for a missed game stoppage, arguing that Wheeler used his glove to help win a faceoff before the goal and the officials agreed, disallowing the goal and putting 3:12 back on the clock.

Winnipeg could not find the back of the net again as the final horn sounded on the Jets season, sending Vegas to the second round for the fourth time in their six years of existence.

Brossoit turned aside 30 shots in the game, with 16 saves coming in the third period, while Hellebuyck gets saddled with his fourth straight loss after allowing four goals on 25 shots.

The Jets will return home to clean out their lockers this weekend ahead of what should be an interesting offseason for Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, although that was also said last year and all that really changed was the coaching staff.

Dubois is a restricted free agent, is one year away from being an unrestricted free agent and his representation has made it clear in the past that he would like to play in Montreal.

Hellebuyck, Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Brenden Dillon, Dylan DeMelo and Nino Niederreiter are all under contract for one more season. Depending on what the vision is for the future of the team, some of those players could be traded this summer.

There are also players further down the depth chart that Chevy will need to make decisions about as well. Morgan Barron, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Kevin Stenlund, Dylan Samberg and Logan Stanley are all RFAs while Vladislav Namestnikov, Karson Kuhlman, Saku Maenalanen, Sam Gagner and David Rittich are UFAs.

Whatever comes of the offseason, tune into Jets at Noon and the CJOB Sports Show for all your Jets coverage on 680 CJOB.

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