Jets return from layoff, defeat Vegas 5-4 in overtime
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Kyle Connor scored in overtime and the Winnipeg Jets overcame a first-period, two-goal deficit to hold off the Vegas Golden Knights 5-4 Sunday in their return from a two-week hiatus.
Mattias Janmark scored twice for Vegas in the third period, including a tying goal with 8.1 seconds left, but Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck improved to 4-1-1 career against the Golden Knights by stopping 42 shots.
The Jets hadn’t played since beating St. Louis 4-2 at home Dec. 19 due to COVID-19 outbreaks. They hadn’t been on the road since Dec. 10, when they lost 4-3 in a shootout at Vancouver.
“We knew there was probably going to be some rust, there was probably going to be some hiccups, and we talked about it,” Winnipeg interim coach Dave Lowry said. “We felt that we did the drills right in practice to prepare us, but once you get into game action and play a team that’s already played a couple of games, you are going to be on your heels.”
Jansen Harkins, Kristian Reichel, Andrew Copp and Paul Stastny also scored for the Jets.
Michael Amadio and Evgenii Dadonov also had goals for Vegas, and Laurent Brossoit made 32 saves.
Connor, who leads the Jets in scoring on the road with 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 14 games, raced into Vegas’ zone and past all three Golden Knights while creating a 2-on-1 rush before firing a wrist shot past Brossoit for the winner.
“Just tried to build speed … and they kind of got tied up in the neutral zone,” said Connor, whose last two goals in Vegas were overtime winners. “Came in and had 2-on-1 and the D-man kind of gave me a lot of space there and I wasn’t going to pass up that shot.”
Vegas opened the scoring when Zach Whitecloud’s shot from the high slot was blocked toward the near side, where Amadio was in perfect position to jump on the puck and fire it into an open net.
Shortly afterward, Amadio led a 2-on-1 rush into Winnipeg’s zone and held the puck long enough before sending it across to Dadonov, who then sent a shot off a defender and past Hellebuyck to give Vegas a 2-0 lead.
The Jets needed only 20 seconds to tie it early in the second period, looking far from a team that just had two weeks off, as Harkins and Reichel took advantage of Vegas’ lackluster effort after the first intermission.
First, Harkins gathered a pass at the blue line, danced around Vegas’ Chandler Stephenson and into the slot, and stroked a wrist shot under Brossoit’s glove. Then Reichel silenced the announced gathering of 17,888 with his first career goal after intercepting a pass near the bottom of the right circle.
“The feelings were unreal,” said Reichel, who was playing in just his second career game. “I was told to be a shooter, so I just tried to put it on net, I picked a corner there and I just closed my eyes.”
Stastny, who played 121 games with Vegas from 2018-20, tipped Josh Morrissey’s slap shot past Brossoit to break a 2-2 tie early in the third period, and Copp followed less than two minutes later.
Janmark rallied the Golden Knights with his fifth and sixth goals of the season, the last a deflection of Shea Theodore’s shot with his skate.
“If you get four on Hellebuyck you should find a way to win the game,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said.
Sunday’s game started a string of returns over the next week for former Golden Knights who were fan favorites since the team entered the league. Winnipeg defenseman Nate Schmidt was with Vegas during its inaugural season, and Stastny joined the team during the second season.
“Spent some good years here, a lot of fun and the city means a lot to me,” Schmidt said. “It was special, Paul and I talked about it before the game, it was really cool to see all the people out and about, and signs and jerseys. You go through a lot with a city, our first year, everything we went through. … I had some jitters, especially in the first period.”
Thursday, the Rangers visit with Vegas’ first coach, Gerard Gallant, and beloved enforcer Ryan Reaves. Then, in what is sure to be an emotional return, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and the Blackhawks visit on Saturday.
NOTES: Jets F David Gustafsson left the game with a lower-body injury and did not return. Lowry said he didn’t know the extent of Gustafsson’s injury, but that he would be re-evaluated with team doctors in the next couple of days. … Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele played in his 600th career game.
Winnipeg: Visits Arizona on Tuesday.
Vegas: Hosts the Predators on Tuesday.
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