Marchessault and the 'Golden Misfits' give Jets trouble in Game 2
Vegas takes advantage of Winnipeg's mistakes to even series 1-1
Maybe they were feeling too good about themselves after finishing off the Presidents' Trophy-winning Nashville Predators and then taking the opener in the West final against the Vegas Golden Knights two days later.
Maybe all the intensity and emotion of this 48-hour period caught up to the Winnipeg Jets and there was a letdown.
Maybe they weren't paying attention to how resilient this expansion Vegas team has been in its playoff run.
- Stanley Cup Playoffs: Full schedule and TV guide
- Jets upended as Marchessault's 2 goals give Vegas Game 2
Whatever it was, they lost their momentum and turned in a sloppy and lacklustre effort against the Golden Knights in a 3-1 defeat on Monday, the Jets third loss in their past four games at Bell MTS Place.
The Jets were mistake-prone and they were unable to unleash their warp speed due to poor puck movement, but the Golden Knights also deserve plenty of credit.
After Vegas goalie Marc-André Fleury kept his team in the game early with stops on Winnipeg's Mark Scheifele (and Nikolaj Ehlers hit the post on a backhand) the Golden Knights turned in an impressive team game.
They were opportunistic and took advantage of their opponents' mistakes. Tomas Tatar made it 1-0 on a second effort at the 13:23 mark of the opening period.
Nothing clean or quick
Then Reilly Smith swept the puck off the stick of Winnipeg forward Kyle Connor at centre ice and the turnover turned into a Jonathan Marchessault breakaway goal.
The Jets had life with a power play to start the final period. But Fleury was at his best and snuffed out any comeback attempt.
A Connor goal midway through the third period pushed the Jets to within 2-1, but Marchessault scored his second of the game 98 seconds later, as the result of a poor neutral-zone pinch from Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba.
"We didn't do anything clean, we didn't do anything quickly," Jets head coach Paul Maurice said.
All of a sudden Fleury, who registered career playoff win No. 71 to tie Jacques Plante on the all-time victory list, was smiling again.
His team is even at 1-1 in the conference final and the Golden Knights return home for the next two games at the T-Mobile Arena, a building where they have won four out of five outings in the first two rounds.
Ability to bounce back
The Jets have exhibited an ability to bounce back for a victory after each of their four defeats in the first and second rounds. But the Golden Knights, or Golden Misfits as they like to be called, will make the Jets work for it.
They like to be called "the Misfits" because these players were exposed by their old teams in the expansion draft 11 months ago — players like the 27-year-old Marchessault of Cap-Rouge, Que.
He was coached by Hockey Hall of Famer Patrick Roy in junior with the Quebec Remparts, but his 5-foot-9, 170-pound frame kept him from being drafted.
A 40-goal regular season and an 11-goal, 33-point run in the Remparts march to the QMJHL conference finals in 2011 earned him a pro contract with the New York Rangers. But Marchessault bounced from there to the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Florida Panthers.
From afar, he always admired Martin St. Louis, the patron saint of pint-sized players. Although St. Louis had moved on by the time Marchessault suited up for the Lightning, he learned a great deal as one of the Black Aces (replacement players) in the Lightning's run to the 2015 Stanley Cup final against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Last year, he checked in with a career-high 30 goals with the Panthers. Despite his production, he was left exposed in the expansion draft.
How did he follow that season up? He piled up a career-high 75 points. He has been even better in the postseason with six goals and 15 points in a dozen games.
A player like Marchessault will give the Jets trouble. But there are plenty more just like him. The Jets found out the hard way on Monday.