Jets open playoffs with dominant 5-1 win in Vegas

It’s hard to imagine a better start to the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Winnipeg Jets.

The 8th seed in the Western Conference went into Las Vegas Tuesday night and outplayed the Golden Knights from start to finish en route to a 5-1 Game 1 victory.

Neither side was able to find the back of the net in the opening 20 minutes, but the Jets came close several times.

Just ahead of the midway point of the period, a Morgan Barron from the slot was sent on goal towards Vegas goalie Laurent Brossoit, the former Jet making his first playoff start.

The puck trickled through Brossoit and out to the side of the net where Mason Appleton couldn’t stuff it home, setting off a massive dogpile in the crease but the puck managed to stay out of the net.

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Amidst the mad scramble, Barron’s face was cut by the blade of one of Brossoit’s skates, sending him off the ice in need of repairs. Over 75 stitches were needed to close the wound before Barron returned with a full facemask roughly six-and-a-half minutes into the second.

Winnipeg also had a pair of power plays in the first but could not cash in on either attempt. Connor Hellebuyck also had to make some solid saves but no doubt the Jets were the better team, carrying a 14-7 edge in shots on goal into the middle frame.

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The Jets finally found the back of the net just 1:24 into the second when Pierre-Luc Dubois carried the puck along the boards into the Vegas end before he found a wide open Kyle Connor in the slot. The Jets winger blasted it through Brossoit to open the scoring.

Only 62 seconds later, Dubois doubled the lead when he hopped off the bench, collected a loose puck at centre ice and flew into the Vegas end before wiring a wrister over the blocker of Brossoit to make it 2-0.

Winnipeg continued to put pressure on the Golden Knights before Vegas started to turn momentum in their favour.

Vegas also whiffed on a pair of power plays in the second but at even strength they were able to cut into the Winnipeg lead at the 15:49 mark of the period.

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Ivan Barbashev took the puck over the Jets blue line and waited a beat before saucing a perfect feed to a hard-charging William Karlsson, who snapped a perfect shot top shelf over the glove of Hellebuyck to inject life into what had been a quiet building.

But from the opening faceoff of the third period, the Jets were in charge.

Blake Wheeler corralled a loose puck in the slot and fired a backhander that found its way through Brossoit at the 3:53 mark of the third to restore the two-goal lead.

Winnipeg did not dial back the pressure as they attempted to increase their advantage but couldn’t beat Brossoit before the door opened a crack when they took a too-many-men penalty with just over five minutes left.

The Vegas power play did nothing other than elicit boos from the home crowd over how ineffective it was.

The Knights pulled Brossoit with over 2:30 to go and managed to get one solid chance on Hellebuyck before Adam Lowry got free for an empty netter.

Lowry then added a power play goal with 19 seconds left to add to the final score.

Hellebuyck was not very busy on the night, stopping 16 of 17 shots as the Jets played an outstanding defensive game. They allowed just two Vegas shots in the entire third period.

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Brossoit was saddled with the loss after stopping 26 of 30 shots.

The Jets will look to stay in control Thursday when the series continues with Game 2 in Las Vegas. Puck drop is just after 9 p.m. with pregame coverage on 680 CJOB beginning at 6:30 p.m.

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