By the Associated Press
Jonathan Marchessault scored twice and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 30 shots, lifting the Vegas Golden Knights to a 3-1 series-evening win over the Winnipeg Jets in Game 2 of the Western Conference final.
“Every time we need a big game as a group, we show up,” Marchessault said. “Maybe we showed the hockey world we deserve to be here.”
Kyle Connor scored midway through the third period to pull Winnipeg within a goal. Marchessault restored the two-goal lead a minute and 28 seconds later.
Tomas Tatar scored at six minutes and 37 seconds into the game for the Golden Knights. Connor Hellebuyck had 25 saves for the Jets.
Game 3 is Wednesday night in Las Vegas.
The Golden Knights appeared to be rusty in the series opener, as the Jets scored three goals early in a 4-2 win, but in game 2 Fleury made key saves early and got help from a teammate and a post in the opening minutes to keep the puck out of his net.
“They came out flying again with a lot of speed,” Fleury said.
Vegas generated offense by making plays without the puck, forcing turnovers to set up goals.
After the Jets failed to clear the puck out of a corner in their end, Tatar ended up stuffing the puck in the net after hitting the side of the net with a shot.
Connor was pressured into turning over the puck near center ice late in the opening period and Reilly Smith set up Marchessault, his former Florida Panthers teammate, at the blue line and he scored on a breakaway backhander.
“There was about 57 minutes of that game that was pretty good for us,” Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. “Three minutes of it got away from us.”
The Jets closed the scoreless second period and started the third on the power play and still couldn’t get the puck past Fleury.
Winnipeg kept up the pressure on by relentlessly forechecking and drew another penalty early in the third. Connor took advantage, squeezing a shot between Fleury and the post from the bottom of the left circle seven minutes and 17 seconds into the third.
That whipped the white-clad fans into a frenzy, inspiring jeers of “Fleu-ry! Fleu-ry!” only to be quieted by another Marchessault backhander that beat Hellebuyck.
The Jets pulled their goaltender to add another skater over the last couple minutes of the game, but Fleury didn’t let the puck get past him again.