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Jets can't overcome slow start, mistakes in Game 3 loss to Golden Knights

Hellebuyck turnover costly in Western Conference Final

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck did not beat himself up over a second-period turnover that led to a goal by James Neal, a turning point in a 4-2 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday.

Immediately after Winnipeg's Mark Scheifele tied the game 1-1 at 5:28 of the second period, Vegas got the puck deep into the offensive zone and Hellebuyck went behind his net to play it.

 

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

 

His attempt to put the puck into the right corner was intercepted by Golden Knights forward Erik Haula, and he quickly sent a pass to the front of the vacated net for Neal, who scored 12 seconds after Scheifele.

Hellebuyck said the mistake wasn't caused by the game going too fast, and disagreed that the Jets couldn't survive it.

"No, I don't think that's fair at all," he said. "[Haula] knocked it out of mid-air. He made a good play on it. I've been doing that all year long. It's unlucky that he knocked that one down. I don't think he was looking. He might have just swung his stick at it but good play on him. I'm going to obviously clean that up. I haven't given it away too many times this year so we have to put that one behind us."

Hellebuyck also said he's not trying to outduel Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who was outstanding in the final two periods when he made 30 saves.

"I don't want to respond to his game," said Hellebuyck, who had 26 saves. "He is obviously a big part of that team and playing very well. But I like my game, I like it a lot more. I like my details. I'm going to continue chugging away and get better every day."

Video: WPG@VGK, Gm3: Maurice on Jets' 4-2 loss to Vegas

After being outplayed in a 4-2 loss in Game 1 on Saturday, the Golden Knights have bounced back with two solid performances and lead the best-of-7 series 2-1. Game 4 is here on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN1, TVAS).

"They won two games. They got a couple of lucky bounces, we got a couple of lucky bounces, maybe they got more," Hellebuyck said. "But there's a reason this is best-of-7. I'm not saying they're better than us, no. They're fighting as hard as we are and we just have to continue to work our butts off."

The Jets did lament their poor start to Game 3. They fell behind 1-0 35 seconds into the first period on a goal by Jonathan Marchessault, and trailed 3-1 in the second period after goals by Neal (5:40) and Alex Tuch (8:13).

From there, Fleury had to deal with some intense pressure after making just three saves in the first period.

"We started playing hockey, playing our game, not playing scared of making a mistake," Jets captain Blake Wheeler said. "We just didn't have it off the start. You get behind, it makes it tough.

"They have a pretty good goalie. He made some nice stops tonight. We can't play that third period any differently or ask for any more. We had [Grade] A chance after [Grade] A chance right in front of him and you've got to tip your cap sometimes."

Video: Marchessault scores twice for Vegas in Game 3 win

Wheeler said the Jets don't have to play a perfect game to beat Vegas.

"Nope, there's no such thing as close-to-perfect or perfect hockey," he said. "Hockey's one of the most imperfect games there is because you've got a puck bouncing all over the place. They're not playing perfect hockey. They're playing really well because they're a good team. You put yourself in a tough position when you're down by a couple goals on the road, tough environment against a good team, so the onus is on us to get off to a better start."

Scheifele scored both goals for the Jets to give him 14 in the postseason, most in the NHL. He has 11 on the road, a Stanley Cup Playoff record.

"We know that was our game," Scheifele said of the offensive pressure in the second and third periods. "We were playing our game. We just have to do that for a full 60 minutes.

"We just got pucks deep, got pucks behind their 'D,' hard on the forecheck. We were playing fast, I think that's the biggest thing."

The Jets defeated the Minnesota Wild in five games in the first round and the Nashville Predators in seven games in the second round, but this is the first time they have trailed in a series.

"That's an important challenge," coach Paul Maurice said. "We're going to have to be able to handle that. It would be rare that you lead the series straight through. We want to make sure we deal with our loss, don't carry it too heavily, and then come up with our finest game of the postseason and be ready for that."

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