LAS VEGAS — The Winnipeg Jets did a great job of shutting down the Golden Knights’ big guns for the first four periods of their first-round series.
The Vegas stars finally started to deliver in the second period of Game 2 on Thursday and never looked back in a 5-2 win that evened the first-round NHL playoff series at one game apiece.
William Karlsson and Jack Eichel scored in the middle stanza for the Golden Knights, Chandler Stephenson had the go-ahead goal early in the third and Mark Stone added two late goals to ice the victory.
“They took over in the second period and clearly they won the third period,” said Jets head coach Rick Bowness. “Our execution with the puck wasn’t very good. We got on the wrong side of them and let them play a lot faster than we want them to play. And we looked slow because of the execution.”
Adam Lowry and Kevin Stenlund tallied for Winnipeg.
The Jets, who won the opener 5-1 on Tuesday night, will now head home for the next two games in the best-of-seven series.
Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at Winnipeg’s Canada Life Centre. Game 4 is set for Monday night.
“We’re happy with splitting,” Lowry said. “Obviously, after how we played in Game 1 we wanted to take Game 2. We’re disappointed we didn’t get the result but there’s a lot of belief in our group.”
Stephenson knocked in a rebound at 5:37 of the third period to put Vegas ahead and found Stone with a goalmouth pass at 13:01. The Vegas captain iced the win by wiring a wrist shot past Connor Hellebuyck at 17:30.
“I can’t say enough about him,” Eichel said of Stone, who was playing his second game since undergoing back surgery in January. “So happy to see him get rewarded there. He’s our captain for a reason.
“He brings it every night and his emotions just run through the team.”
Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers sat out again with an upper-body injury but Morgan Barron was back with a full cage on his helmet. Barron needed over 75 stitches after taking a skate to the face in Game 1.
For the second game in a row, the Jets quieted the sellout crowd at T-Mobile Arena with a strong start. Winnipeg dominated play over the first few minutes and recorded the first five shots on goal.
The Golden Knights’ first shot didn’t come until the 5:35 mark when Stephenson’s one-timer required a highlight-reel save from Hellebuyck.
The Winnipeg netminder snagged the low shot and swung his glove to the outside of the post while most of his body was behind the goal line. A review upheld the no-goal call.
“It was amazing,” said Jets forward Mark Scheifele. “He’s one of the best goaltenders in the league for a reason. He keeps us in every single game and does it night in and night out.”
The Jets opened the scoring at 9:18 of the first period on the power play. Winnipeg controlled the puck from the faceoff and Neal Pionk’s wrister was redirected by Lowry past Laurent Brossoit for his third goal of the playoffs.
Vegas had three power-play opportunities in the opening stanza but Winnipeg had a 17-8 edge in shots on goal.
The Golden Knights came out with more intensity to start the second period. Stone and Nicolas Roy had strong chances down low but couldn’t convert.
Karlsson roofed a loose puck at 5:54 to tie the game. The Golden Knights kept the pressure on and were rewarded at 10:25 when Eichel redirected Alex Pietrangelo’s one-timer from the point.
“There are going to be times that their top-end guys look really good,” Bowness said. “Now we’re going to rely, going home, that our top guys look really good.”
Winnipeg pulled even at 16:01 of the second period when Saku Maenalanen flipped a pass to Stenlund, who chipped it over Brossoit’s shoulder.
Vegas outshot Winnipeg 39-33.
PHIL THE THRILL
Phil Kessel assisted on Karlsson’s goal for his first playoff point as a member of the Golden Knights.
The 17-year NHL veteran had 36 points over 82 regular-season games in his first season with Vegas.
Karlsson, who had the lone Vegas goal in Game 1, scored in back-to-back playoff games for the first time since he did it twice in 2018 after the Golden Knights’ inaugural regular season.
After the two games in Winnipeg, the series will return to T-Mobile Arena on April 27 for Game 5. Game 6, if necessary, will be played at Canada Life Centre on April 29.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2023.
Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press