Mon, May 14, 2018 - Page 10 News List

Jets topple Knights in opener

WHITEOUT:Thousands of fans in the ‘gum of Canada’s shoe’ took to the streets to revel in the limelight as the Jets came closer to ending the nation’s 25-year drought

AFP and Reuters, LOS ANGELES and WINNIPEG

Josh Morrissey, left, and Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets celebrate their playoff win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday in Winnipeg, Canada.

Photo: AFP

Patrik Laine and Joel Armia scored 46 seconds apart in the first period, as the Winnipeg Jets rolled over the Vegas Golden Knights 4-2 on Saturday in the opening game of the Western Conference Finals.

The Jets pounced on the Golden Knights from the opening puck drop, scoring three times on their first eight shots against a shell-shocked Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

“We did a good job of getting a good start,” Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. “They are a great team. They have so much speed. It is going to be a long, tough series.”

Finnish forward Laine scored on a powerplay in the first period to make it 2-0 and the Jets’ roaring start continued when Armia made it 3-0 after a successful challenge by the Jets’ coaching staff overturned a no-goal call by the referees.

Mark Scheifele, with his league-leading 12th goal of the post-season, and Dustin Byfuglien also scored for Winnipeg. Scheifele now has four more goals than any other player remaining in the playoffs.

Armia had his second goal of the post-season waved off only to have it restored by a challenge, which overturned the initial goaltender interference call on the ice.

Game 2 of the series is tonight in Winnipeg before the series shifts to Las Vegas.

“We know the next game is going to be harder. It is going to get harder and harder, but it was nice to get the first one out of the way,” Laine said.

Brayden McNabb and William Karlsson scored for the Golden Knights, who looked the rustier of the two teams, as they had six days off after eliminating the San Jose Sharks.

Fleury was not his normal self, giving up a goal to Byfuglien just 65 seconds into the contest in front of a Jets crowd of 15,300 at the Bell MTS Place Arena.

“We had a week off. Sometimes getting your legs under you takes a few minutes and they took advantage,” Fleury said.

For the Jets’ fans, Saturday proved that when it comes to ice hockey and throwing a party, they are up there with the best.

This is uncharted airspace for the Jets and tens of thousands of their fans were drawn to the downtown core of the city to be a part of the achievement.

Their victory also gave Winnipegers a prime-time stage to hit back at all the punch lines and jabs they have absorbed over the decades.

“Winter-Peg,” “Windy-Peg,” weary Winnipegers have heard them all, but on Saturday, the Jets and their supporters reminded a hockey-mad nation that “The Peg” is Canada’s last hope this season to end a 25-year Stanley Cup drought.

“We’ve been the gum on Canada’s shoe for a long time. Everyone looks down on Winnipeg,” fan Adam Williscroft said. “But not now, not today. Today we are in the limelight.”

The NHL’s smallest market sits at what is recognized as the crossroads of Canada, “Portage and Main,” which is often referred to as the nation’s coldest and windiest corner.

However, the champagne is still on ice. A Stanley Cup party would require three more Jets victories to lock up the series.

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