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Jets optimistic they can still win Western Final against Golden Knights

Winnipeg believes series is 'far from over' after Game 4 loss

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- There was no resignation in what the Winnipeg Jets were saying after a 3-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final at T-Mobile Arena on Friday.

Despite the precarious position of having to win three games in a row if they want to advance to the Stanley Cup Final, the Jets mostly liked how they played in these back-to-back road losses.

Nonetheless, they trail 3-1 in the best-of-7 series. Their season is on the line in Game 5 at Bell MTS Place on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

 

[RELATED: Complete Jets vs. Golden Knights series coverage]

 

"I liked a lot of that game," Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. "We win that game nine times out of 10. Tonight was the one. [We] had some looks where their goalie (Marc-Andre Fleury) made some extraordinary saves. He's a good player. You've got to sometimes take your hat off to a good player stealing a game."

For the second straight game in Vegas, Fleury made a huge difference. The Golden Knights goalie made 36 saves Friday, two nights after he made 33 in Game 3.

"Nothing is stolen until it's over," said Jets defenseman Tyler Myers, who scored at 5:34 of the third period to tie the game 2-2. "In our minds, this series is far from over. We're going back home for the next one, and we'll focus on that."

Video: WPG@VGK, Gm4: Myers nets one-timer to tie game

The Jets held the edge in shot attempts in Game 4 (85-59), just like they did in Game 3 (68-56). Again, they didn't get the result, but they're not about to change their approach.

"It's virtually impossible to generate more offense," Wheeler said. "On the road against a team that had (109) points and we get 40 shots ... you can't generate any more than that. You just stay with what you do.

"We play that game again and it doesn't go our way, it's not meant to be. But we're pretty confident in ourselves. If we play that game we like our chances, it gives us an opportunity to win."

The Jets said the opportunistic Golden Knights deserve credit, having quickly responded with goals in each of the games they've won in the series. That included Tomas Nosek's goal in the second period of Game 4 that gave Vegas a 2-1 lead, which came 43 seconds after Patrik Laine's power-play goal got the Jets even at 1-1.

Video: WPG@VGK, Gm4: Laine rips home power-play goal

"I wouldn't say it's deflating," goalie Connor Hellebuyck said. "I think it's bad luck. Their goal was just a product of the puck bouncing the wrong way. Guy misses the shot and hits the post. The stars are aligning for them. But it's not going to stay that way."

A fortuitous bounce certainly assisted Reilly Smith's game-winning goal with 6:58 remaining in the third period, when Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien looked like he was about to step into a hard shot at the right point. The puck hopped over his stick, allowing Smith to go the other way.

"I see a lot of posts on the other end," Hellebuyck said. "I don't know, I want to call it luck, but things have got to switch and it's going to come our way.

"Obviously it's very frustrating, but it's nothing that we can't handle. We're very prepared for this."

Video: WPG@VGK, Gm4: Smith wires wrister in for lead

Bounces or breaks, Vegas has taken advantage in this series.

"You hate to take credit from the other team," Wheeler said. "They did a good job, cashed in on their opportunities and made one more play than we did."

Although the Jets face long odds to win the series, they're not about to conduct a full-on search on how to turn the tables.

"We like a lot of things that we did," Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. "You know, stiff opponent, they don't make it easy on you. But the work level and the compete level was really good [from] start to finish.

"So that's what you ask of your group, to come out and compete as hard as they can. There's always going to be things you think you can do better, move the puck a little cleaner. But you had 85 shot attempts (in Game 4); you're playing in the right end of the rink."

Video: WPG@VGK, Gm4: Maurice on hard-fought Game 4 loss

Maurice was asked why he believes the Jets can win three in a row.

"We don't have to do that," he said. "I know we can win a game. We're a good enough team. We've battled. We've gone into some pretty heavy environments and won a game that we needed to win. So it's just one game."

***

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