Jets’ early lapse surrenders home-ice edge to Golden Knights

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — There were some discrepancies in the Winnipeg Jets locker room about just how long their stretch of poor hockey lasted Monday night.

It’s of little consequence anyway.

The result was a lapse in play late in the first period cost the Jets home-ice advantage in a 3-1 loss to the Golden Knights in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final.

“There’s a 10-minute block there we’re not going to like (on film) very much tomorrow,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said of the second half of the first period. “We really got out of our routes and our patience at that point. (In addition to two goals), they got a couple of posts on us and we were not right.”

Forward Blake Wheeler narrowed down the problem area even more.

“There was about 57 minutes of that game that was pretty good for us,” he said. “Three minutes of it got away from us. They could have scored four goals in those three minutes.

“We just (have to) stay with it better. Realize that they have some guys on their team that can make plays as well. There’s going to be moments in this series where they get scoring chances. They’re (going to) create some momentum and put the puck in the net. It’s just a matter of how you react to it.”

The Jets didn’t handle the adversity well after controlling the series opener Saturday. Winnipeg couldn’t convert on several great scoring chances early in Game 2, opening the door for a goal by Tomas Tatar to give the Knights their first lead of the series.

An uncharacteristically sloppy stretch followed for the Jets as Vegas finally looked like the team that entered the series with an 8-2 postseason mark.

Winnipeg appeared unable to handle the forecheck. The Golden Knights forced several turnovers and hit two posts in addition to the goal tacked on when Reilly Smith and Nate Schmidt combined to force Kyle Connor into a neutral zone turnover as Winnipeg changed lines, springing Jonathan Marchessault on a breakaway.

“They scored two goals and we just kind of got away from it,” Wheeler said. “The second one was tough, didn’t really see what happened. Just kind of a breakdown and then we gave up a breakaway off the next faceoff. Just little things that are easy to clean up, but it makes it tough to come back. One goal is different than two goals is different than three goals. And so on and so forth. If you get down a goal it’s not the end of the world, there’s lots of hockey to play. When you start letting it snowball that’s when it gets more challenging.”

Winnipeg finally settled down and gave the Knights a scare when it cut their deficit to 2-1 in the third period and had the crowd worked back into a frenzy. But Marchessault again quieted the building with a sensational move to beat Connor Hellebuyck after a great pass from Reilly Smith.

“That third goal, we were just getting a little momentum back there and that one kind of slowed us down a bit,” defenseman Jacob Trouba said.

Maurice knows it’s a 60-minute game and his team was done in by more than just one bad stretch.

“There’s two things,” he said. “The one that cost us I think is that we is pushed too early, got out of our routes too early. Then the second piece of that was what I’d said earlier is that we didn’t do anything clean, we didn’t do anything quickly.”

They head to T-Mobile Arena knowing they need to clean up and win at least one game to retake home-ice advantage.

If they don’t, the Jets may spend much of their offseason looking back at five bad minutes.

More Golden Knights: Follow all of our Golden Knights coverage online at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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