LAS VEGAS — The Winnipeg Jets were eliminated from the NHL post-season on Thursday night after dropping a 4-1 decision to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Chandler Stephenson scored twice while Mark Stone and William Karlsson added singles as the top-seeded Golden Knights won the best-of-seven series in five games.
Kyle Connor scored the lone goal for Winnipeg.
Nikolaj Ehlers made his series debut for the Jets after missing over two weeks with an upper-body injury. Mark Scheifele (upper body) and Josh Morrissey (lower body) sat out.
The Golden Knights set the tone early when Stephenson beat Connor Hellebuyck just 50 seconds into the game.
Vegas controlled play for most of the first period as Winnipeg was held without a shot for the first eight minutes.
Stone, Karlsson and Stephenson all scored in an eight-minute span in the second period and the Golden Knights were on their way.
The Jets looked like a different team in a 5-1 victory in Game 1 but they couldn’t duplicate the effort later in the first-round series.
Vegas rebounded with a 5-2 win in Game 2 before delivering two victories at Canada Life Centre, topping the Jets 5-4 in double overtime and adding a 4-2 win in Game 4.
For Game 5, showgirls in full feather headdresses danced near the boards during the warm-up. Vegas-style theatrics were on display in a medieval pre-game ceremony.
When the puck dropped, the Golden Knights picked up where they left off.
They outchanced, outhit and outplayed the visiting Jets, who displayed little spark and looked overmatched. A raucous sellout crowd at T-Mobile Arena ate it up.
Vegas clogged the middle of the ice and prevented Winnipeg from finding its rhythm. The Jets looked scattered as zone breakout attempts were frequently stifled by passes that were off the mark.
Winnipeg finally managed a half-decent scoring chance in the 15th minute of play. The Golden Knights outshot the Jets 8-5 in the opening period.
Stone scored 42 seconds into the second period when he corralled a bouncing puck and beat Hellebuyck on the glove side. Karlsson padded the lead at 4:41 when he one-timed a pass through the goalmouth from Michael Amadio.
Adam Lowry nearly put Winnipeg on the board a few moments later but Laurent Brossoit denied him with a diving glove save. Lowry was later called for hooking and the Vegas power play converted nine seconds later as Stephenson tallied at 8:37.
Stone assisted on the goal for his second three-point game of the series.
Down by four and in desperation mode, the Jets pulled Hellebuyck for an extra attacker with over eight minutes left in the third period. Connor chipped in a puck with 5:38 remaining to end Brossoit’s shutout bid.
With the Winnipeg net still empty, Pierre-Luc Dubois jammed in a loose rebound with 2:35 to play.
The goal was waved off, though, after the Golden Knights used a coach’s challenge. It was ruled that Blake Wheeler made a hand pass to the point off the draw.
Vegas will get a few days off now as the team awaits its Round 2 opponent.
The Golden Knights will play the winner of the Edmonton-Los Angeles series. The Oilers have a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 on tap Saturday.
The Jets enjoyed a strong start to the regular season but struggled mightily at times in the second half. Winnipeg managed to put some wins together over the last couple weeks of the campaign to nab the second wild-card spot.
A first-round exit should lead to an interesting off-season for a club that needs to decide whether to push forward with its current core or overhaul its roster.
Winnipeg reached the Western Conference final in 2018 — also losing to Vegas — and hasn’t been beyond the second round since.
Entering this year’s first round, teams with a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series held a series record of 299-31 (.906).
Jets forward Morgan Barron was sporting his regular half-visor again for Game 5 after playing most of the series with a full cage on his helmet.
Barron needed over 75 stitches after taking a skate to the face in Game 1.
Vegas defenceman Shea Theodore sat out Game 5 with an undisclosed illness.
Fellow blueliner Brayden McNabb did not play due to an upper-body injury and is listed as day to day.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 27, 2023.
Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press