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The Winnipeg Jets scored early and often en route to a commanding 4-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final on Saturday night at Bell MTS Place.
Dustin Byfuglien, Patrik Laine, Joel Armia and Mark Scheifele all found the back of the net in front of a boisterous home crowd, and a three-goal flurry in the first period allowed the Jets to establish a comfortable edge that never vanished.
Byfuglien got the party started 65 seconds into the opening frame with a laser off a feed from Scheifele, and Laine doubled Winnipeg’s lead a shade under six minutes later when he found the back of the net off a heads-up one-time feed from Blake Wheeler on the power play:
All cylinders are firing for the @NHLJets, including @PatrikLaine29. #StanleyCup https://t.co/ormaOXBg1Z
Armia joined the action 46 seconds later on a goal that was initially waved off for goalie interference. But after a review that lasted five minutes and 45 seconds, the league determined the contact Armia made with Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury occurred after the puck had been deflected off his skate and into the back of the net.
At that point, STATS LLC noted the Jets were scoring at a conference-final clip that hadn’t been seen in 29 years despite entering Saturday on a single day of rest after notching a Game 7 win over the Nashville Predators on Thursday:
Stats By STATS @StatsBySTATS
The @NHLJets scored 3 goals in the first 7:35 of Game 1 against Vegas. The last team to score 3 goals in the first 8 minutes of a conference final game was the Blackhawks in 1989 Game 2 at Calgary. #WPGWhiteout
Winnipeg continued to wield a determined disposition in the second period, and the result was Scheifele’s 12th goal of the playoffs off a deflection from Byfuglien’s blue-line wrist shot:
When you lead the playoffs in goals, a touch is all @markscheifele55 needs. #StanleyCup https://t.co/wdjQQiMZtp
Not surprisingly, Scheifele appears to be in the driver’s seat for the Conn Smythe Trophy:
Sportsnet Stats @SNstats
If this playoff run by the #NHLJets continues, Mark Scheifele has a good shot at scoring the most goals in a single postseason since 2000 #WPGWhiteout https://t.co/qIcQpmDXvE
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Mark Scheifele has 12 goals in 13 games this postseason. He has the highest goals per game rate of any player with at least 10 games in a single postseason over the last 25 years. https://t.co/q0K91NeMZB
The Golden Knights, meanwhile, were never able to dictate pace.
Although they hadn’t suited up since May 6, Vegas looked disjointed and a bit overwhelmed by the Jets’ speed. Plus, the Golden Knights didn’t consistently work the puck deep into the zone and, as a result, were limited to 21 shots against the capable Connor Hellebuyck.
Winnipeg, in its first-ever conference final appearance, also did an admirable job of getting bodies in shooting lanes to further stagnate an offense that could only look to goals by Brayden McNabb and William Karlsson as silver linings.
With their work cut out for them, the Golden Knights will turn their attention to Game 2 on Monday in hopes of knotting the series at one game apiece before the scene shifts back to Sin City.