December 10, 2023

The Winnipeg Jets know first-hand how hard it is to beat the Vegas Golden Knights, and they got another reminder of that in a 5-2 loss in Sin City Thursday night.

Jonathan Marchessault had a hat trick, and the Jets never had a lead as the league leading Golden Knights stayed unbeaten in regulation, now without a 60 minute loss in all of their first 11 games of the campaign.

Winnipeg tied the game in the middle stanza, but only 13 seconds later Mason Appleton took a double-minor penalty for high-sticking, and the Golden Knights made them pay by scoring twice on the ensuing man advantage.

“For those first eight minutes of  that second period, we were dominating them,” said interim head coach Scott Arniel. “Obviously, Apple didn’t mean to do that, and it’s a four-minute minor, but for us to give up two goals like we did, line changes and giving up odd-man rushes that we didn’t have to give up on those two goals.”

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After only recording five shots on goal in the first period, the Jets actually outshot the Knights 31-26.

“I thought we controlled a lot of the pace of the game,” said Kyle Connor. “It’s going to come down to those small things and obviously special teams – we’re looking to improve those for sure.”

The loss ended the Jets five-game point streak and after back-to-back extra time defeats, the Jets have now lost three in a row.

After being held off the scoresheet the past two games, Connor was involved in both Jets goals as he recorded a goal and an assist. Alex Iafallo scored the other marker for the Jets in the loss.

Iafallo’s third period goal ended an 0-for-20 slump on the power play.

“Special teams is huge tonight,” said Iafallo. “We got to still work harder to get more power play goals and get more momentum. Just got to work on special teams a little more, clarify a few things, and work a little harder in certain areas.”

Arniel switched up the lines in the final frame, flip-flopping Iafallo and Appleton on the top two forward lines.

“I was trying to get something going,” Arniel said. “Just really didn’t like after we gave up the two shorthanded goals. We got real sloppy for the last 10 minutes of that second period.”

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Winnipeg’s slumping power play got a chance to change the narrative less than a minute into the game when Marchessault was called for holding Josh Morrissey.

Instead, the Jets mustered zero shots.

But their 29th-ranked penalty kill made good on their first time shorthanded, killing off a Dylan Samberg interference penalty just over five minutes in.

After a relatively uneventful first half of the period, Vegas got on the board at the 10:45 mark on a play that seemed to come out of nothing.

The Golden Knights broke the puck out of their own end without any kind of numbers advantage, but all of a sudden, one pass created a 2-on-1 in the Winnipeg end.

Pavel Dorofeyev slid the puck through Dylan DeMelo’s legs right to the stick of a streaking William Karlsson, who roofed it over the shoulder of Connor Hellebuyck to open the scoring.

It stayed 1-0 through 20 minutes with Vegas holding a 10-5 advantage in shots on goal.

Winnipeg got another crack on the power play early in the second and again it failed to produce a goal, but it helped jumpstart a strong run of play for the visitors that resulted in them tying the game.

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Connor got the puck at the Vegas blue line and dashed down the wall before cutting back inside, beating two Golden Knights to the slot before sending a backhand shot past Logan Thompson for the equalizer at the 6:17 mark.

Just 13 seconds later, however, Appleton was assessed a double-minor for high-sticking Alec Martinez, and the ensuing power play changed the game.

The Jets cleared the puck in the first minute of the power play and while they were changing, Thompson caught everyone off guard with a long stretch pass to Mark Stone at the Winnipeg blue line. He sent it to a streaking Marchessault who got in behind the defence and whipped a shot over Hellebuyck’s glove to make it 2-1 just 43 seconds after Connor tied it.

Vegas remained on the power play and double-dipped. 98 seconds after the Marchessault tally, Hellebuyck gave up a big rebound on an Alex Pietrangelo shot that landed right on the stick of Ivan Barbashev, who whacked it into the open net to make it 3-1.

Each team had another power play chance go by the wayside before the end of the frame as Winnipeg found themselves down by two goals heading to the third.

For the third straight period, the Jets were given an early power play opportunity and they finally cashed in. A Connor slap-pass was redirected by Cole Perfetti and banked off Iafallo before hitting Thompson and trickling into the goal to make it a one-goal game.

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But less than four minutes later, Vegas restored the two-goal lead. Pietrangelo and Dylan Samberg got tangled up in front of the Winnipeg net, freeing up Marchessault to be all alone as he beat Hellebuyck from point-blank range to make it 4-2. It was the first 5-on-5 goal that Samberg had been on the ice for this season.

With 3:29 to go and still trailing by two, the Jets pulled Hellebuyck for the extra attacker, but any hopes of a late rally were thwarted when Marchessault hit the empty net from the red line, icing the game and ensuring the Golden Knights would improve to 10-0-1 on the season.

Winnipeg had 31 shots on net but the Golden Knights blocked an additional 22 attempts. The Jets also finished the game 1-for-5 on the power play, while Vegas went 2-for-4.

With the loss, the Jets fall to 4-4-2 with a visit to Arizona coming up on Saturday. The puck drops at 3 p.m. with pregame coverage on 680 CJOB starting at 1 p.m.

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