(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

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

This is only the fourth state of emergency ever issued during a fire season

UPDATE: 5 injured in plane crash following Abbotsford International Airshow

One in critical condition in incident involving vintage plane

Shag Creek area under evacuation order, area expanded

93 properties are being told to evacuate immediately

B.C. Wildfires 2018: Thousands prepare to leave their homes at a moment’s notice

Northwest B.C. and Cariboo seeing most fire activity in province as crews battle 490 fires

Canadians fear for relatives trapped amid flooding in Indian state of Kerala

More than 800,000people have been displaced by floods and landslides

IndyCar driver Wickens flown to hospital after scary crash

IndyCar said Wickens was awake and alert as he was taken to a hospital

Ex-BCTF president ‘undeterred’ after early release from pipeline protest jail term

Susan Lambert and Order of Canada recipient Jean Swanson released early

Fast food chains look to capitalize on vegetarian, vegan trend with new items

Seven per cent of Canadians consider themselves vegetarians and 2.3 per cent identify as vegans

B.C. swimmer halts journey across Strait of Juan de Fuca after hypothermia sets in

Victoria MS athlete Susan Simmons swam for eight-and-a-half hours in 9 C choppy waters

‘Hard on water:’ Smoke not the only long-range effect of wildfires

The project began more than 10 years ago after southern Alberta’s 2003 Lost Creek fire

B.C. VIEWS: Genuine aboriginal rights are misused and discredited

Camp Cloud one of long line of protests falsely asserting title

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to march in Montreal’s Pride parade

Trudeau will end the day in his home riding of Papineau

Most Read