Jets looking to even series in Friday's 'must-win' Game 4 vs. Vegas Golden Knights
'We're not going to pack our bags and leave if they end up scoring first,' says Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler
The Winnipeg Jets are emphasizing the need to come out flying against the Vegas Golden Knights when the two clubs play the fourth game in their Western Conference final series Friday night.
Vegas leads Winnipeg two games to one in a series where the club that scored first has won each game.
The Golden Knights could not recover from a three-goal deficit in Game 1 in Winnipeg, while the Jets could not drag themselves out of holes in Game 2 in Manitoba and Game 3 in Nevada.
Forward Mathieu Perreault said the Jets must continue to dominate Vegas the way they did during the second half of a 4-2 loss to Vegas in Game 3 on Wednesday.
"It's a must-win for us. We have to see it that way," Perreault said at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas Friday morning. "We have to come out and bring that energy we had in the third [period] last game."
Jets captain Blake Wheeler suggested Winnipeg could easily bury Vegas early, as the Knights have done to the Jets in the past two games, pointing to the first game of the series in Winnipeg. But Wheeler also said it won't be fatal if the Jets do not light the lamp ahead of the Knights.
"We're not going to pack our bags and leave if they end up scoring first," he said.
- What happens in Vegas? Winnipeg has a first-time experience the Jets would probably choose to forget
Losing Game 4, however, would place the Jets in a precarious position. Teams that find themselves down three games to one in a best-of-seven series go on to win the series less than 10 per cent of the time.
Jets coach Paul Maurice said he will not use the spectre of elimination as a motivational tool.
"That wouldn't be my starter tonight. I probably won't lead with that," Maurice joked.
While Maurice would not say whether winger Nikolaj Ehlers, who sat out Game 3, would play in Game 4, the club confirmed the Danish speedster is ill and not injured.
Ehlers will be available to play, the club said.
Even though Ehlers has yet to score during the 2018 playoffs, his presence would give the Jets more potential offence. The club has been relying heavily on centre Mark Scheifele during the series against Vegas.
"Our big dogs have been great in the playoffs and for the most part we've done a good job of supporting that," centre Bryan Little said. "In order to be successful we need the other guys going as well."
The Jets also must figure out how to get pucks past Vegas goaltender Marc-André Fleury, who has been lucky as well as exceptionally good this series.
Wheeler said he was not bothered when Fleury tickled his ear during a goalfront scrum in Game 3.
"I didn't clean my ears that day, so the joke's on him," the Jets captain said. "I thought it was funny.… Things just keep getting weird."
Game 4 begins at 7 p.m. CT.