What happens in Vegas? Winnipeg has a first-time experience the Jets would probably choose to forget

For the first time this postseason, the Jets are trailing another NHL club in the race for the Stanley Cup, thanks to the high-octane Vegas Golden Knights, who defeated Winnipeg 4-2 at a raucous T-Mobile Arena.

4-2 loss in Las Vegas means Winnipeg is behind in a series for the first time in the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs

Elvis, to the left of the Golden Knights' building. He also goes by the name Jeff Stanulis. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Your first taste of ice cream is awesome.

The first time you ride in a car with the windows down on a warm summer night is nothing short of exhilarating.

The first time you experience the sense of satisfaction of completing a difficult task, simply for the sake of doing so, is unparalleled in its intensity.

Falling behind in a 2018 playoff series is not the same sort of first-time experience. But that's precisely what the Winnipeg Jets did in Las Vegas on Wednesday night.

For the initial time this post-season, the Jets are trailing another NHL club in the race for the Stanley Cup, thanks to the high-octane Vegas Golden Knights, who defeated Winnipeg 4-2 at a raucous T-Mobile Arena.

Vegas now leads the Western Conference final series two games to one, continuing their remarkable performance as an expansion franchise.

To Winnipeg fans who've waited decades for the Jets to become a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, the immediate success of the expansion Golden Knights could seem unfair.

"This is their inaugural year. They've done an unbelievable job this season. I think it was unexpected. They very much surpassed their expectations on how they ended up this year and kudos to them," said Chris Bomek, a Winnipeg fan who travelled to Las Vegas to celebrate his 50th birthday.

"They're a good team, they're a fast team, but this is their first year. I think you have to pay your dues before you make it deep into the playoffs."

Winnipeg Jets fan Dillon Brecht takes a stab at the castoff nature of the Vegas roster prior to Game 3. (Bartley Kives/CBC)

Unfortunately, there's no such thing as paying dues when it comes professional sports franchises.

If there was any validity to this concept, the Arizona Cardinals wouldn't have gone seven decades without winning an NFL championship, the Toronto Maple Leafs wouldn't be embarrassed by the time that's elapsed since Canada's centennial year and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers wouldn't have to be consoled by the fact 1990 was the year the Berlin Wall was demolished and Nelson Mandela got out of jail.

Perhaps of greater relevance: The Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup the first season they played in Denver. While that 1995-96 squad was no expansion team, its immediate success remains a sore spot for hockey fans in Quebec City, the club's former home.

In other words, hockey fandom is just like any other aspect of human existence. It just isn't fair.

There was nothing undeserved about the Game Three score. For much of the game, the Golden Knights outhustled, outperformed and outfinished the Jets.​

​For the second straight match against Vegas, Winnipeg stumbled through the first period like a casino patron who imbibed too many oversized, novelty-cup margaritas from the Vegas strip.

Only 35 seconds into the game, speedy Vegas winger Jonathan Marchessault, who's proving himself to be a Jet killer, raced down a gaping void on the left wing and opened up Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck like a thirsty toddler squeezing a juicebox.
Jonathan Marchessault puts Las Vegas up early over Winnipeg Jets in Game 3. 0:18

Looking lethargic by default, the Jets managed only three shots in the first 20 minutes of the game. For the sake of you, reader, there won't be a folksy analogy about that performance.

Winnipeg did come to life during a wildly entertaining second frame, creating scoring chances with their speed. Centre Mark Scheifele briefly evened the score by tipping a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury from a sharp angle.
Winnipeg Jets centre Mark Scheifele, right, crashes into Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and left wing Erik Haula, left, during the third period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey playoffs Western Conference finals Wednesday, May 16, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP/David Becker)

Yet barely after the goal light stopped spinning, a Hellebuyck misadventure allowed Knight Erik Haula to haul out the puck to James Neal, who easily restored the one-goal lead.

Alex Tuch then made it 3-1 after no Jet decided to pick him up on the rush. Seemingly possessed by anger, the Jets cycled through the Vegas zone but could not beat Fleury, the post or whatever curse befalls visitors to Las Vegas.

This momentum carried into the third period, when a Kyle Connor dig behind the net led to a Mark Scheifele score to make it 3-2 after 18 seconds of play. But a major press by the Jets yielded no further scoring until a Vegas empty netter ensured the Golden Knights also accomplished a postseason first.

Up until Wednesday, no playoff team had beaten the Jets twice in a row. 

Game Four is slated for Friday.

About the Author

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.

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