WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Jonathan Marchessault scored twice and said the expansion Vegas Golden Knights sent a message, bouncing back with a 3-1 series-evening win over the Winnipeg Jets on Monday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference final.
“Every time we need a big game as a group, we show up,” Marchessault said. “We showed the hockey world we earned the right to be here.”
Tomas Tatar scored 6:37 into the game for the Golden Knights and Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 30 saves.
Kyle Connor scored midway through the third period to pull Winnipeg within a goal. Marchessault restored the two-goal lead 1:28 later.
Connor Hellebuyck had 25 saves for the Jets.
After losing the series opener, Marchessault told reporters the team faced a must-win game.
“If you’re going to talk out there in the media that you have to be better, I think you need to lead by example,” he said. “I tried to do that.”
Game 3 is Wednesday night in Las Vegas.
“I don’t think anybody is panicking,” Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba said. “We like our road game. We like where it was in the Nashville series.”
Winnipeg won three times on the top-seeded Predators’ home ice, including Game 7 last week.
The expansion Golden Knights appeared to be rusty in the series opener and the Jets scored three goals early in a 4-2 win about 48 hours after advancing out of the second round.
It looked like they were going to pick up where they left off.
“They came out flying again with a lot of speed,” Fleury said.
Fleury, who helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win three Stanley Cups, made key stops early and got help from teammate and a post in the opening minutes to keep the puck out of his net.
“Fleury had to make three or four really good saves in the first seven minutes,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. “We rebounded after that. We got that 2-0 lead and it was a different game for us. When teams are chasing the lead, it’s tough for teams to battle back.”
Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele, who has postseason-high 12 goals , got the puck past Fleury in the opening moments of the game and Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt cleared it from the crease .
Vegas generated offense by making plays without the puck, forcing turnovers to set up goals.
“We were on them,” Golden Knights forward Erik Haula said. “That’s our game. We’re a fast team. I think we showed that.”
After the Jets failed to control the puck out of a corner in their end, Tatar ended up stuffing the puck in the net after hitting the side of the net with a shot.
Connor was pressured into turning over the puck near center ice late in the opening period and Reilly Smith set up Marchessault, his former Florida Panthers teammate, at the blue line and he scored on a breakaway backhander.
“There was about 57 minutes of that game that was pretty good for us,” Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. “Three minutes of it got away from us.
The Jets closed the scoreless second period and started the third on the power play and still couldn’t get the puck past Fleury.
Winnipeg kept up the pressure on by relentlessly forechecking and drew another penalty early in the third. Connor took advantage, squeezing a shot between Fleury and the post from the bottom of the left circle 7:17 into the third.
That whipped the white-clad fans into a frenzy — triggering jeers of “Fleu-ry! Fleu-ry!” — and were quickly quieted by another Marchessault backhander that beat Hellebuyck.
The Jets pulled their goaltender to add another skater over the last couple minutes of the game, but Fleury didn’t let the puck get past him again.
NOTES: Vegas put Tatar and Tomas Nosek in place of David Perron and Oscar Lindberg. Gallant said Perron was not a healthy scratch. “He wasn’t feeling well,” Gallant said. “I think he’ll be fine.” ... The Jets have not lost consecutive games this postseason. ... Vegas acquired Tatar from the Detroit Red Wings at the trade deadline for a first-round pick and he played in just his fifth game of this postseason and scored his first goal. “What a luxury to be able to put Tomas Tatar into a game in the playoffs,” Schmidt said. “The guy has been an incredible player in this league and proved it for many years.”
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