LAS VEGAS – The Vegas Golden Knights saved their best performance of the opening round for last and dominated the Winnipeg Jets with their first chance in an elimination game.
Chandler Stephenson scored twice and Vegas ousted the Jets from their Western Conference opening-round series with a 4-1 victory on Thursday night in Game 5.
“I think it was our best, or closest to complete, but like I said, we still have work to do and we know that,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Nobody plays their best game in the first round. You keep building, and we’ll do the same.”
The Golden Knights, who lost Game 1 before winning four straight, became the first team to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Vegas, which went to the Stanley Cup Final in its inaugural season in 2018, is now 42-29 in the postseason. Vegas improved to 8-5 in 13 playoff series since entering the league.
Mark Stone added a goal and two assists and William Karlsson also scored for the Golden Knights. Goaltender Laurent Brossoit made 30 saves.
“I thought overall it was one of our better games,” Stone said. “I thought we stuck to the program for the majority of those last four games that we played.”
Vezina Trophy candidate Connor Hellebuyck made 21 saves for the Jets and Kyle Connor scored late in the third period to ruin Brossoit’s shutout bid.
Winnipeg coach Rick Bowness said he was “disgusted” with his team’s effort, which he compared to a 4-9-1 run from late January through February.
“I’m so disappointed and disgusted right now, that’s my thoughts,” Bowness said. “No pushback. It’s the same crap we saw in February. As soon as we were challenged for first place, and teams were coming after us, we had no pushback. This series we had no pushback. Their better players were so much better than ours it’s not even close. ... They were the better team in the regular season, they were the better team in this series.”
Stephenson put Vegas on the board first just 50 seconds into the game when he took a feed from Stone and beat Hellebuyck before he could get back to the right side of the crease.
Leading 1-0 after one period, the Golden Knights opened the floodgates with three second-period goals.
Stone, 42 seconds in, gathered a bouncing puck and ripped a wrist shot from the slot to increase Vegas’ lead to 2-0.
Next, Karlsson finished Michael Amadio’s backhand pass between two Jets with a one-timer from the doorstep. Karlsson now has 11 points (3 goals, 8 assists) in 16 career potential series-clinching games, the most in Golden Knights franchise history.
Stephenson added his second goal of the game when he snapped a one-timer from the left circle during a power play midway through the second period.
Teams with a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series now hold a series record of 300-31 (.906).
ROSTER UPDATES: Nikolaj Ehlers, Karson Kuhlman and Kyle Capobianco made their 2023 Stanley Cup Playoff debuts for the Jets on Thursday night. Vegas was without Shea Theodore, Phil Kessel and Brayden McNabb, as all three sat out. Meanwhile, Vegas D Ben Hutton, 30, appeared in his first career Stanley Cup Playoff game.
CHAN, TO THE MAX: Stephenson recorded multiple points in each of Vegas’ last four games, joining former Golden Knight Max Pacioretty as the only players in franchise history to have a streak of four or more contests.
STONE COLD: After missing 39 games during the regular season due to his second back surgery in less than a year, Stone made quite a return to the lineup. The 30-year-old registered two three-point games in the opening-round series. He previously had two games with at least three points in his playoff career.
NEXT UP: Vegas will face either Edmonton or Los Angeles in the second round. Edmonton leads the Kings 3-2 in their series. with Game 6 scheduled for Saturday. The Golden Knights split the season series against the Kings, each team going 2-2-0. The Oilers won the series against Vegas, going 3-0-1. __
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