Loading articles...

Golden Knights tighten grip on NHL's Western Conference final downing Jets 3-2

Vegas Golden Knights right wing Reilly Smith scores past Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck during the third period of Game 4 of the NHL hockey Western Conference finals Friday, May 18, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Marc Sanchez)

The Vegas Golden Knights are a win away from advancing to the Stanley Cup final.

The expansion Golden Knights downed the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 on Friday to lead the NHL’s Western Conference final three games to one.

The series returns to Winnipeg for Sunday’s Game 5. A Game 6, if necessary, would be back in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Reilly Smith scored the third-period winner with William Karlsson and Tomas Nosek also contributing goals for the hosts at a raucous T-Mobile Arena.

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was a difference-maker again with 35 stops after a 33-save performance in Game 3.

Patrick Laine and Tyler Myers countered for the Jets, who lost their third in a row this series. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 26 of 29 shots in the loss.

No modern-day expansion team has played in the Stanley Cup final. The St. Louis Blues were among six teams joining the NHL in 1967 when that team reached the final and was swept by the Montreal Canadiens.

Las Vegas improved to 9-1 this post-season when scoring the first goal of the game. The Jets are 7-1, but were chasing the Knights a third straight game after giving up a first-period goal.

Jonathan Marchessault scored 35 seconds into Game 3 and it was the left-winger from Cap-Rouge, Que., who set up the first goal less than three minutes after puck drop Friday for his 18th post-season point.

Reilly stole the puck from Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien whiffing on a shot from the point in the third period.

Reilly outskated Winnipeg defenders Brandon Taven and Josh Morrissey coming back and beat Hellebuyck with a knuckler over the goalie’s left shoulder at 13:02.

The Jets were buzzing in the third outshooting the hosts 12-2 in the first 10 minutes. Myers beat Fleury between the pads at 5:36 to pull the visitors even again.

But also like Game 3, Winnipeg tied the game in the second period only for the Knights to re-take the lead less than a minute later.

When Hellebuyck bobbled a rebound in the second, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scooped up the puck and attempted a wraparound goal. Nosek shoved the puck between Hellebuyck’s legs to make it 2-1 at 10:12.

Laine scored a power-play goal at 9:29 to pull the Jets even. He one-timed a shot from the faceoff circle under Fleury’s right arm.

With Myers serving an interference penalty Karlsson beat Hellebuyck low glove side on a cross-ice feed from Marchessaault at 2:25.