Jets Face New Adversity After Game 3 Loss

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LAS VEGAS – The largest Golden Knights jersey in this town hangs over the shoulders of the fake Lady Liberty outside the phony New York, New York, along The Strip, the most pretentious street in North America.

But what’s weighing down the Winnipeg Jets right now feels very real.

A 4-2 loss to Vegas in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup semifinal, Wednesday, makes it back-to-back losses for the first time in these playoffs and the Jets’ first series deficit of the post-season.

The Jets have been remarkable front-runners. Now we’ll see how they react to some real adversity.

“That’s an important challenge,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “We’re going to have to be able to handle that. It would be rare that you lead the series straight through. We want to make sure we deal with our loss, don’t carry it too heavily and then come up with our finest game of the post-season.”

The Jets elevated their game from Round 1 against Minnesota to Round 2 against Nashville, and they’re being forced to raise it again against the Golden Knights.

In stretches of Game 3, they did. The entire third period, for instance, as they did everything but tie the game at threes.

In others they were outclassed.

One thing is as clear as the Nevada sky: the Jets have met their equal in speed, a reality even Maurice allowed himself to consider, post-game.

“They’re a quick team, for sure. So, possibly,” he said. “And then when we’re fast we look faster, too. It’s an ebb and flow in the game.”

Vegas comes at you like a sandstorm, and if decisions aren’t quick and passes crisp, they’ll make you pay.

The Jets did a few things you just can’t do in a swing game like this.

You can’t gift-wrap goals for a team like Vegas — they produce enough on their own.

But that’s exactly what goalie Connor Hellebuyck did early in the second period, going behind the net to hand the puck to Erik Haula and leaving his net unprotected for the easy feed to James Neal.

The goal came just a dozen seconds after the Jets had tied it, 1-1 — the ultimate momentum killer.

“We’d like to have better ownership of the puck on those,” Maurice said. “That was a big one. So we clearly need to have the game not get back to that. The bench was starting to feel right.

“Momentum — it’s up for grabs every single time the puck drops. We had it, and they certainly seized it.”

The Knights’ third goal was made possible by a weak Toby Enstrom play on Neal at the Winnipeg line, allowing Neal to get a shot, collect his own rebound, circle the net and set up Alex Tuch to make it 3-1.

The start was another thing you just can’t do.

The Jets came out for the first period like deer in the headlights, the first shift an unmitigated disaster.

It began with Kyle Connor panicking when he got the puck in his own zone, poking it right to the Vegas defender.

It continued with Jacob Trouba throwing it to nobody, also in his own zone.

And it ended with Mark Scheifele coughing it up at the Vegas blue line, sending it back at full tilt the other way

Three turnovers for a quarter — and a 1-zip Vegas lead.

If the Jets can bottle a period and uncork it again, Friday, it would be the third.

The only thing that prevented overtime was the best show on The Strip, and there are plenty to choose from.

Paul Anka may be ready to knock ‘em dead at the Wynn, Elton John and his million-dollar piano may be packing ‘em in at Caesars Palace, Cher may be getting ready for a two-night blast at Monte Carolo and Santana is no doubt making his guitar sing at Mandalay Bay’s House of Blues.

But none of them could hold a candle in the desert wind to Marc-Andre Fleury’s show-stopping performance in goal for the Golden Knights.

Fleury was David Copperfield on ice, and nobody was more stymied by his rabbit-in-the-hat act than Scheifele, who likely lay awake at night thinking about the ones that got away in that third period, especially.

“He’s one of the best goalies in the league,” Scheifele said. “We played our game… we were fast. We’ve got to do that for a full 60 minutes.”

The Golden Knights won’t let them.

But the Jets have to win this next battle of the ebbs and flows.

Or Lady Liberty will have them in a stranglehold.

Source : http://windsorstar.com/sports/hockey/nhl/winnipeg-jets/jets-face-new-adversity-after-game-3-loss/wcm/55252a85-12e1-43bf-b5f7-d14caf675717

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