Jets-Golden Knights Game 4: Vegas Can Take Control of West Finals

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, May 17, 2018 1:30 PM UTC

Thursday, May. 17, 2018 1:30 PM UTC

The Vegas Golden Knights continue to play like anything but an expansion team and can take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals over Winnipeg on Friday night.

Game 4: Winnipeg (1-2) at Vegas (2-1)Free NHL Pick: Over (& Jets)Best Line Offered: Bovada

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The Vegas Golden Knights continue to amaze. The expansion team – check out our story on what Seattle can learn from Vegas when that city begins play in the NHL in 2020 – is now two wins from reaching the Stanley Cup Finals as it hosts the Winnipeg Jets at raucous T-Mobile Arena on Friday night in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. The puck drops at 8 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network. A Friday night playoff game in Sin City. Think that might be a fun atmosphere?

Winnipeg hadn’t lost back-to-back games in these playoffs before dropping Game 3 on Wednesday night, 4-2. In fact, the Jets hadn’t lost consecutive games since March 10-13 when they lost at Philadelphia, at Washington and at Nashville. The Jets have totaled just three goals in their back-to-back losses, their fewest over a two-game span since that three-game losing streak. It's the first time they trail in a series in these playoffs.

I don’t need to tell you that it’s very difficult for teams to rally from 3-1 series deficits in the NHL playoffs, especially the later rounds. Vegas has become the BetOnline series favorite at -225 with Winnipeg at +195. The Knights also are now Stanley Cup favorites at the site at +180, although that could change depending on what Washington does Thursday in Game 4 of the East Finals vs. Tampa.

Teams with a 2-1 lead in the conference finals or semifinals have won the series 81.4 percent of the time since 1975.

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Hellebuyck’s Gaffe Costly

You could say the goalies are the difference in any NHL result, but that was clearly the case in the Knights’ 4-2 win on Wednesday. Winnipeg had withstood a furious Vegas start to tie the game 1-1 as Mark Scheifele found the net at 5:28 of the second period. Immediately after, Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck made a poor decision behind the net, and it led to an intercepted pass by the Knights’ Erik Haula. He fed James Neal in front of an open net, and Neal potted it for a 2-1 lead just 12 seconds after Scheifele’s goal.

That was clearly the turning point of the game.

Meanwhile, Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was the game’s No. 1 star with 33 saves, including two spectacular ones on Scheifele in the third period. It was the eighth time in 13 games this postseason Fleury has allowed two or fewer goals. It also was Fleury’s 72nd career playoff win, giving him sole possession of ninth on the all-time list. Next up is Chris Osgood with 74.

Jonathan Marchessault continued his stellar postseason with a second straight two-goal game, the first and last of Game 3. He became the first player in league history to score in the first and last 60 seconds of the same Stanley Cup playoff game. Marchessault leads Vegas with 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) and is one point shy of the NHL record for the most by a player in his team’s first postseason appearance. Marchessault is also two goals shy of tying that record of 10 in a team’s first playoffs. That was set by Florida’s Dave Lowery in 1996 for the Florida Panthers.

The clear bright spot in Game 3 for Winnipeg was Scheifele with his two goals. His 14 lead these playoffs and his 11 on the road are a league record for any postseason. Scheifele only had seven road goals during the regular season in 28 games (he missed time injured). It was Scheifele’s ninth multi-point game, but he has work to do to tie the NHL record of 14 set by Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux in 1991.

  • Jets are 7-0 in their last 7 Friday games.
  • Jets are 23-8 in their last 31 after scoring 2 goals or less in their previous game.
  • Over is 4-0 in Golden Knights' last 4 home games.
  • Over is 3-0-1 in Golden Knights' last 4 after allowing 2 goals or less in their previous game.

The Jets need to get more from superstar Patrik Laine, who has been held without a point the past two games. Scheifele can’t do it alone. My primary Friday pick is the ‘over.’ It’s 4-0 in Winnipeg’s past four on the road and 14-2 in Vegas’ past 16 Friday games. I do think the Jets even this series, however.

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