Golden Knights 3 Jets 1
WINNIPEG — Jonathan Marchessault scored twice and Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves as the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Winnipeg Jets 3-1 on Monday night to even the Western Conference final 1-1.
Tomas Tatar also scored for the expansion Knights, while Reilly Smith added two assists.
Kyle Connor replied for the Jets, who got 25 saves from Connor Hellebuyck.
The series now shifts to Sin City for Game 3 on Wednesday and Game 4 on Friday.
Game 5 will be back in Winnipeg on Sunday afternoon.
Fleury, who has four shutouts in these playoffs, picked up the 71st post-season victory of his career to pull even with Jacques Plante for ninth on the all-time list.
The Jets beat the Knights 4-2 in Saturday’s series opener some 48 hours after disposing of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Nashville Predators 5-1 on the road in Game 7 of a second-round matchup that never saw a team win two straight.
Winnipeg came out fast with three goals in the first eight minutes at a thunderous Bell MTS Place in that one against Vegas, which had a five-day break following a six-game defeat of the San Jose Sharks.
After the Jets had a number of chances during an early push Monday — including a shot from Mark Scheifele that nearly squeaked through Fleury’s pads and a Nikolaj Ehlers shot off the post on the shortside — Winnipeg sagged a bit before Vegas opened the scoring with 6:37 left in the first period.
A healthy scratch for seven of the Knights’ 11 playoff games coming into Monday, Tatar scored his first of the post-season off a slick feed from Shea Theodore at the side of Winnipeg’s net. The veteran forward’s initial shot hit the post, but a great second effort saw him jam the puck past Hellebuyck on the follow up.
The visitors made it 2-0 with 2:38 left in the period when Connor turned the puck over in the neutral zone, leading to a breakaway for Marchessault, who made no mistake through Hellebuyck’s pads for his fifth.
Erik Haula nearly put the Knights up 3-0 seconds later, but he hit the post on another break before the puck bounced off Hellebuyck’s back and just went wide as Vegas outshot Winnipeg 8-0 in the second half of the period until Brandon Tanev’s 70-foot wrister with five seconds left.
The Jets got some momentum off a penalty kill early following the intermission, but couldn’t solve Fleury on any of their eight shots in a second that also saw Andrew Copp hit the post.
Winnipeg broke Fleury’s shutout bid at 7:17 of the final period on the Jets’ second power play of the period when Connor’s shot from the bottom of the left faceoff circle somehow leaked through Fleury for his third.
But Marchessault scored his second of the night and sixth of the playoffs just 1:28 later when he took a nice pass from Smith and beat Hellebuyck with a backhand to send the series to Vegas knotted at one.
The Jets finished with the second-best record in the NHL this season behind Nashville with 114 points, while the surprising Knights — a group of castoffs from the league’s other 30 teams — were fifth overall with 109.
Winnipeg is making the first appearance in a conference final in the city’s history. The old Jets, who left town in 1996, were swept in both of their trips to the second round, while the new incarnation, which moved from Atlanta in 2011, lost in four straight to the Anaheim Ducks to open the 2015 playoffs.
Notes: Game 6, if necessary, will be May 22 in Vegas, while a potential Game 7 would go May 24 in Winnipeg.