The Winnipeg Jets’ magical playoff run has come to a sudden end.
The Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Jets 2-1 in Game 5 to win the Western Conference Final four games to one on Sunday at Bell MTS Place. The Jets lost the final four games of the series.
“We had a great opportunity and that team, it was their time,” Jets captain Blake Wheeler said.
“They made it really tough for us. We had to work for everything we got and even when we broke them down, we couldn’t seem to ever gain the type of momentum we needed to get this thing on our terms.”
Alex Tuch and Winnipeg’s Ryan Reaves scored goals for the Knights in the clincher as they opened the scoring for the fourth consecutive game.
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Josh Morrissey had the only goal for the Jets in the loss. The Knights held the Jets to just six goals combined over the last four games of the series.
“Obviously, I’m frustrated with myself because I couldn’t score,” Patrik Laine said. “I couldn’t help the team to win with my abilities, but there’s always next year.”
The Jets’ power play failed on all four opportunities in Game 5 while the Golden Knights were 0 for 2 on the man advantage.
“Once they got the lead, they did a good job of kinda almost playing a trapping game and trying to force us to do too much ourselves,” Paul Stastny said. “And sometimes we got in trouble, one guy trying to go through five guys, and that never works.”
The Jets didn’t even have a lead in any of the contests after their Game 1 victory.
“Every game was tight,” Mark Scheifele said. “Every game was a matter of inches almost. They capitalized when they needed the chance. It just sucks.”
The shots were dead even in the Game 5 clincher as both teams registered 32 shots. Connor Hellebuyck made 30 stops for the Jets.
“I still think we did things right,” Hellebuyck said. “We got our chances and luck was on their side definitely. I’ve never seen anything like it. Even their two goals tonight were two tips. I don’t know. It’s tough to swallow.”
But the Jets just didn’t look like the same team that eliminated the Nashville Predators and it’s pretty clear the grueling seven-game series took its toll on the team. While he wasn’t making excuses, head coach Paul Maurice admitted they weren’t as sharp in the conference final.
“There were things that didn’t happen for us in this series,” Maurice said. “That I think, some of it was mental, but it was the physical fatigue caused by having to spend as much as we spent to get here.”
The expansion Golden Knights advance to the Stanley Cup final in their first year of existence.
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For the fourth straight game, Vegas opened the scoring. Just past the five-minute mark, Morrissey turned over the puck in his own zone. Ryan Carpenter immediately spotted Tuch and he lifted the puck over the shoulder of Hellebuyck and the Knights once again had the lead.
With just 2:46 left in the first Bryan Little won the face-off in the Golden Knights’ zone and Morrissey blasted the one-timer past Marc-Andre Fleury for his first goal of the playoffs. It was 1-1 after one period and the shots were 13-8 in favour of Winnipeg.
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The Golden Knights regained the lead with a little under seven minutes left in the middle frame. Reaves tipped in the point shot for his first goal of the post-season. Luca Sbisa and Tomas Nosek picked up the assists and it was 2-1 for Vegas after 40 minutes.
Neither team scored in the final frame as the Golden Knights clinched their third series victory of the playoffs.
The Jets made three lineup changes from their Game 4 loss. Joel Armia returned after sitting out Game 4, while Dmitry Kulikov and Joe Morrow both made their first appearances of the series. Andrew Copp, Toby Enstrom and Ben Chiarot were all scratched.
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