By Annie Ross
Reilly Smith scored on a breakaway late in the third period to lead the Vegas Golden Knights to a 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.
Vegas, a 500-to-1 long shot to win the title when the season started, can advance to the Stanley Cup final when the series resumes Sunday in Winnipeg.
William Karlsson and Tomas Nosek also scored for Vegas, and Marc-Andre Fleury, who is ninth in career postseason wins, made 36 saves to earn his 73rd playoff victory.
With the game tied at 2-2, Smith raced down the left side of the rink and beat Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck above his blocker to put the Golden Knights ahead with 6 minutes 58 seconds left in the game.
Hellebuyck made 27 saves but lost for the third consecutive game, despite telling reporters after Game 3 that he liked his game better than Fleury’s. Patrik Laine and Tyler Myers scored for Winnipeg, which is on the brink of elimination.
The Jets picked up where they left off in the third period of Game 3 by outskating the Golden Knights in the first period of Game 4, but Karlsson’s power-play goal was the difference. Off the draw, Smith found Jonathan Marchessault, who fed Karlsson for a one-timer to beat Hellebuyck and give Vegas a 1-0 lead.
With the assist, Marchessault (eight goals, 10 assists) tied the N.H.L. record for most by a player in his team’s first postseason appearance, set by the Islanders’ Jude Drouin in 1975 and matched by the San Jose’s Igor Larionov in 1996.
Marchessault is riding a six-game point streak.
In a case of déjà vu from Game 3, when Vegas responded 12 seconds after giving up a 1-0 lead, Winnipeg and the Golden Knights traded goals 43 seconds apart midway through the second period.
The Golden Knights, who were tied for third in the N.H.L. with 29 home wins during the regular season, improved to 6-1 at T-Mobile Arena in the playoffs.