Dustin Byfuglien scored about a minute after the puck dropped and the Winnipeg Jets built a three-goal lead early in the first period and went on to beat the Vegas Golden Knights 4-2 on Saturday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.
Patrik Laine and Joel Armia had goals 46 seconds apart to put the Jets up 3-0. Mark Scheifele gave Winnipeg a 4-1 lead midway through the second period with his 12th goal this postseason.
Brayden McNabb scored midway through the first and William Karlsson late in the second period to pull Vegas within two, but the expansion team couldn’t get closer.
Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck made 18 saves. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 22 shots for the Golden Knights.
The Jets will host Game 2 on Monday night before the series shifts to Las Vegas.
Winnipeg, which is making its deepest playoff run in franchise history, appeared to be in rhythm less than 48 hours after advancing past top-seeded Nashville.
Vegas, meanwhile, seemed rusty after resting for nearly a week after eliminating San Jose in the second round.
Or, maybe the Jets are just that good.
Winnipeg’s fast, deep and talented team had 114 points this season, trailing only the Predators’ league-high total by three points.
The hard-charging, smooth-passing Jets put the Pacific Division champions on their heels right from the start and didn’t relent.
White-clad, towel-twirling raucous fans in the arena — and packed on surrounding streets — were fired up before the game started. And, they were given plenty of opportunities to celebrate in the opening minutes.
Byfuglien’s slap shot 1:05 into the game off a drop pass from Scheifele put Winnipeg up 1-0. That ignited the party-like atmosphere in a relatively cozy arena with just 16,345 seats and a low ceiling.
Fleury had no shot to stop Laine’s one-timer from the left circle off Wheeler’s cross-ice pass on a power play at the 6:49 mark of the first. Armia had a goal waved off less than a minute later only to have it restored by a challenge, which overturned the goaltender interference call on the ice.
After the flurry of goals early, the Jets were able to possess the puck for much of the game to cut down on Vegas’ comeback chances.
The Golden Knights pulled Fleury to add an extra skater late in the game, but had to put him back on the ice because there was a faceoff near him. They sent him to the bench again and had some chances to pull within one, but the shot-blocking Jets didn’t let the puck get to Hellebuyck much.
NOTES: The last time two teams were in the NHL conference finals for the first time was 2003 when Anaheim swept Minnesota. … Scheifele has four more goals than any player still in the postseason. … Fleury has given up at least three goals for the fifth time in six games.
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