Los Angeles: Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves and James Neal had a goal and an assist as the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-2 to lead the Western Conference final two games to one.
Neal, who left Wednesday’s game briefly in the first period after taking an elbow to the head, returned to score a goal and set up another in the second period for the expansion Golden Knights.
Jonathan Marchessault also scored twice for Vegas, who weren’t even in existence a year ago, but now find themselves just two wins away from their first Stanley Cup final.
Marchessault opened the scoring just 35 seconds into the first period in front of a sold-out crowd of 18,400 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“It was nice to get a goal early and get the team into it,” said Fleury. “They pushed back but we handled it well.”
The Knights will try to take a stranglehold lead in game four on Friday in Las Vegas.
Costly mistakes by the Jets led to the Knights’ first three goals, including one blunder by netminder Connor Hellebuyck who misplayed the puck behind his own net on Neal’s goal.
Mark Scheifele scored his playoff-leading 13th and 14th goals for the Jets, who now trail for the first time in a series in the postseason despite outshooting the Knights 35-29 in game three.
Fleury had to make 30 saves in the final two periods after being called upon to make just three in the first.
Neal and Alex Tuch scored goals just 2:33 apart in the first half of the second period to give Vegas a 3-1 lead. Neal took an elbow to the head from Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien in the first period and had to leave the contest to get checked for a possible concussion.
“It is fine,” said Neal. “The league mandates they take you off.
“We got off to a good start. There were just a few momentum shifts but Flower [Fleury] was unbelievable for us.”