By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
Brett Howden was ecstatic to score his first playoff goal. His second one into an empty net was icing on the cake.
Howden’s goals, along with William Karlsson and Ivan Barbashev scoring 47 seconds apart in the second period, lifted the Vegas Golden Knights to a 4-2 road victory over the Winnipeg Jets Monday night.
The victory gave Vegas a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series. Game 5 of the best-of-seven Western Conference battle goes Thursday in Vegas. Teams that take a 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series hold a series record of 299-31.
“Both games had both my parents and all my siblings here, in-laws as well, so pretty special to be able to do it in front of them,” said Howden, who was born in Oakbank, Man.
Winnipeg lost more than the game when veteran star centre Mark Scheifele left the ice early in the first period and the team announced he wouldn’t return because of an upper-body injury. He joined a growing list of injured teammates that includes all-star defenceman Josh Morrissey (injured in Game 3) and speedy forward Nikolaj Ehlers, who hasn’t yet competed in the playoffs.
“Upper-body injury and he’ll be re-evaluated tomorrow,” Jets head coach Rick Bowness said of Scheifele.
Chandler Stephenson and Shea Theodore each had two assists and Laurent Brossoit made 24 saves for the Golden Knights.
“We didn’t really give them anything,” said Brossoit, who played three seasons with the Jets. “They’re dealing with some injuries, but we’ve got a veteran group that didn’t get complacent and we took it to them.”
Blake Wheeler had a goal and assist and Pierre-Luc Dubois also scored for Winnipeg. Neal Pionk contributed two assists, extending his point streak to seven assists in four games.
“We have two options,” Dubois said. “We can either feel bad for ourselves, or we can have a positive mindset. We won one in Vegas before. We feel like we have the recipe to do it again.
“We’re going to do some video, have a practice. I’m sure we’ll talk a lot about what we have to do better and we’ll be ready for the next game.”
Connor Hellebuyck stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced for Winnipeg, which played in front of another boisterous sellout crowd of 15,325 white-clad fans at Canada Life Centre.
“It’s unfortunate, obviously, to lose Mark, a guy we really rely on,” Wheeler said. “The guys battled extremely hard. We just couldn’t get a bounce five-on-five.”
The score was 1-1 after the first period and 3-1 for Vegas following the second.
Scheifele had fans cheering and then worrying in a matter of minutes.
On a breakaway about two-and-a-half minutes into the game, Scheifele took a close shot that Brossoit stopped, and then got tripped up and crashed into the end boards on his left side.
He got up and continued skating and was on the ice for a Winnipeg power play. When he tried to fire a shot from inside the circle, it didn’t have a lot of power behind it and he appeared to immediately clutch his right arm. He skated to the bench and went down the tunnel at 5:11.
Scheifele led the Jets in goals in the regular season with a career-best 42. He had one goal in the playoffs.
Wheeler took the crowd’s mind off the injury for a moment when he beat Brossoit with the man advantage at 5:53.
The good mood didn’t last long after Howden scored the equalizer exactly four minutes later. His first shot was blocked and he got the loose puck and put it past Hellebuyck.
The Golden Knights boosted their lead to 3-1 in the second period with Karlsson’s goal at 13:32, followed by Barbashev with a tip of Theodore’s shot at 14:19.
Dubois squeezed the score to 3-2 on a power play with a bouncing puck that went high in the air off Alex Pietrangelo’s stick and down beside Brossoit and into the net at 2:53 of the third.
Howden scored into the empty net with 17 seconds left.
“At the end of the day, no panic, just take care of business,” Vegas head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Play the right way and end up getting the win, that’s what we came here for.”
Stephenson’s two assists gave him multiple points in three straight games. He became the fourth player in Golden Knights’ history to record multiple points in three or more consecutive playoff games. … Vegas forward Phil Kessel played in his 100th career playoff game. … Winnipeg defenceman Logan Stanley took Morrissey’s roster spot. … Jets backup goalie David Rittich (lower body) missed the game. He was replaced with emergency AHL call-up Arvid Holm.