Scheifele, Byfuglien lead Jets over Knights in Game 1 of Western Conference final

WINNIPEG — Mark Scheifele and Dustin Byfuglien each had a goal and an assist as the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 4-2 on Saturday to take a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference final.

Patrik Laine and Joel Armia also scored for Winnipeg, while Blake Wheeler added three assists.

Connor Hellebuyck made 19 saves for the Jets.

Brayden McNabb and William Karlsson replied for the expansion Knights, who got 22 stops from Marc-Andre Fleury.

Jonathan Marchessault assisted on both Vegas goals.

Game 2 goes Monday in Winnipeg before the series shifts to Sin City for Games 3 and 4.

With a deafening whiteout crowd of 15,321 inside Bell MTS Place in full voice, and thousands more gathered around the downtown arena for a street party, the Jets made it 1-0 just 65 seconds in when Byfuglien took a drop pass from Scheifele and blasted his fifth goal of the post-season by Fleury.

Coming off a 5-1 road victory over the Nashville Predators in Game 7 of their second-round series on Thursday, Winnipeg went up by two on the power play at 6:49 after Byfuglien made a great play to keep the puck in at the blue line.

Wheeler eventually fed a cross-ice pass to Laine, who one-timed his fourth, but just his second since Games 1 and 2 of the first-round series with the Minnesota Wild, as the Jets scored on two of their first six shots.

Fleury, who came in with four shutouts and a .951 save percentage in the playoffs, made a great stop to deny Bryan Little on a 3-on-1, but could do nothing when Ben Chiarot’s shot went in off Armia’s skate for his second as he cruised through the crease at 7:35.

The goal was initially waved off, but it was determined after a Winnipeg challenge there was no kicking motion or contact with Fleury until the puck crossed the line.

Vegas, which had five days off after defeating the San Jose Sharks in six games in the second round, got one back just 35 seconds later when McNabb scored his second to make it 3-1 just 8:10 into the game.

Wheeler was then sent flying into the Vegas bench by Knights tough guy Ryan Reaves on a clean hit that saw the Winnipeg captain’s skates flailing in the air as he struggled to get back into the action.

Vegas pushed a bit to open the second, but Scheifele stretched his lead atop the playoff goal race when he tipped Byfuglien’s point shot on a power play at 9:54.

Jets fans responded to that goal by relentlessly heckling Fleury during the ensuing TV timeout.

The Knights got back to within two at 4-2 on a man advantage of their own with 4:05 left in the second when Marchessault whipped a pass in front to Karlsson, who made no mistake for his fifth

But that’s as close as the visitors would get as the Jets closed things down in the third to improve to a perfect 9-0 when leading through 40 minutes in the playoffs.

Winnipeg advanced to the first conference final in the city’s history by defeating Minnesota to open the playoffs before downing Presidents’ Trophy-winning Nashville, which finished three points ahead of the second-place Jets in the regular-season standings.

Vegas, meanwhile, which has been the story of the NHL in its inaugural season, swept aside the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, and needed just six to get past San Jose in round two.

The Jets had 114 points in the regular season, while the Knights — and their roster of castoffs — were fifth with 109 points.

Notes: Wheeler leads all players still left in the post-season with 15 assists. … The old Jets, who left town for Phoenix in 1996, never managed to win a game in the second round of the post-season. This version of the team, which moved from Atlanta in 2015, was swept in the first round by Anaheim in 2015 in the franchise’s only other playoff appearance before this year. … Bobby Hull, a member of the old Jets in both the WHA and NHL, was in attendance.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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