(Twitter/GoldenKnights)

Las Vegas Golden Knights move on to Stanley Cup final

Improbable run continues for NHL’s newest expansion team

When the buzzer sounded to end the game and the season for the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, goalie Connor Hellebuyck left the bench and went back on to the ice.

The netminder had been off for an extra attacker, but six skaters couldn’t tie up the game and Jets were eliminated from the playoffs as the expansion Vegas Golden Knights won the Western Conference final series in Game 5 with a 2-1 victory.

Hellebuyck went up to his teammates still on the ice, many bent over their sticks their heads hanging dejectedly, and gave them a pat and said a few words in what he agreed was an emotional moment.

“These guys left their heart out there,” Hellebuyck said. “You could tell how hard they worked. Not only tonight, but all season long. I’m proud of the way these guys played in front of me.”

Hellebuyck turned aside 30 saves in his final outing of a season in which he’s a finalist for the Vezina Trophy along with Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy and Pekka Rinne of Nashville. But his strong performance was overshadowed by the play of Vegas’ veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who stopped 31 shots and continued being the brightest star on a team of castoffs from other clubs.

“I thought this was our year,” Hellebuyck said. “You could see how hard everyone was working. How much everyone wanted it. That’s why this one’s tough.”

Vegas winger Alex Tuch scored 5:11 into the first period after Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey turned over the puck on a pass attempt in front of the net. But Morrissey bounced back when his one-timer beat Fleury for his first career playoff goal with 2:46 left in the opening period.

Winnipeg native Ryan Reaves scored the go-ahead goal with a high deflection of defenceman Luca Sbisa’s point shot that hit the crossbar and then went in at 13:21 of the second period.

“I didn’t see much,” Hellebuyck said of the game-winning shot. “But any time a guy tips it and it goes bar south, you know something’s going right for them. That was tough to swallow, but I guess that’s the game.”

Jets captain Blake Wheeler said he thought the Jets had been the better team going into the series, but Fleury was the difference-maker.

“Their goaltender was extraordinary,” Wheeler said. “There were numerous times the puck was in spots where it looked like it was in the net or going in the net. And he’s playing lights out right now.”

But he also credited Hellebuyck for his performance.

“He played awesome,” Wheeler said. “This isn’t on him. He made some terrific saves to give us a chance.”

Centre Mark Scheifele, who scored 14 goals and had 20 points in the playoffs, also pointed to Fleury as the wall they couldn’t break down.

“They had the best goalie in the league right now. He stood on his head. He made a lot of big saves,” Scheifele said. “Their (defence) played solid, played solid in their D zone.”

Forward Paul Stastny, acquired by Winnipeg before the trade deadline from St. Louis, was asked why the Jets had a tough time generating offence.

“Fleury played well,” Stastny said, following the theme. “I think once they got the lead, they did a good job of kind of almost playing a traffic game and trying to force us to do too much ourselves. Sometimes we got into trouble, one guy trying to go through five guys and then that never works.

“It happened in the past series, we learned from it. Later in the game, everyone tries to do a little extra, you’re trying so hard for each other and sometimes that’s the worst thing you can do.”

Winnipeg was 0 for 4 on the power play and Vegas 0 for 2.

“I don’t think we ran out of gas at all,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said. “We lost some sharpness. When you look at the second half of our last two games, especially, we were driving as hard as we could. So there was fuel in the tank. There was a hard and heavy push and it was right.”

Winnipeg finished second overall in the NHL behind Nashville and the franchise went deeper into the playoffs that the former Atlanta Thrashers club or the original Jets.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Kelowna RCMP serve up slices and support for Special Olympics B.C.

Last years inaugural campaign raised more than $12,000

Kelowna Mayor’s walking tour of Rutland cancelled

Growing issues surrounding supportive housing leads to rescheduled meeting with concerned resident

Kelowna RCMP net traffickers in undercover op

The RCMP reported dozens of arrests in the investigation

RCMP investigating gunshots in Lake Country

A road sign was shot at and damaged, but nobody was hurt

Eating sandwiches, putting on makeup behind the wheel could land you a fine

RCMP say if you cause an accident while eating you could be penalized

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbot’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

Vernon artist featured at Kelowna exhibit

Mariel Belanger one of three female indigenous artists

Hergott: Moral obligations and your will

Lawyer Paul Hergott discusses wills and moral obligation

Child killed after being hit in driveway on Vancouver Island

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Rain delays repair of Shuswap road damaged in mudslide

Seymour Arm forest service road not expected to reopen until early next week

Cat badly hurt in animal trap was likely stuck for days, B.C. owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

Alleged Okanagan shoplifter tracked down by RCMP

Vernon retail store’s loss prevention officer’s description of suspect helps lead to arrest

District staff consider updated GHG emission reduction targets in Summerland

Residents suggest plastic bag ban, cohousing, having new developments be “solar ready” at open house

Most Read