The Vegas Golden Knights are now one win away from making the Stanley Cup Final as an expansion team, and they have both Reilly Smith and Dustin Byfuglien to thank for that. With the Golden Knights tied 2-2 with the Winnipeg Jets in the third period of Game 4 Friday, Jets’ forward Brandon Tanev set up Byfuglien for a one-timer from the point, but he fanned on that. That led to Vegas forward Reilly Smith stealing the puck, going end to end on a breakaway, and beating goalie Connor Hellebuyck with a beautiful short-side wrist shot just under the crossbar:
Here’s another look at that:
That’s an impressive play by Smith, especially the perfectly-placed shot at the end, but it doesn’t happen if Byfuglien gets even a little more contact on that puck. And, given that this goal proved decisive in the Knights’ 3-2 win and gave them a 3-1 series lead, that’s a pretty harsh blow for the Jets. It’s also harsh for Byfuglien, as he played a very good game otherwise and contributed to many more shots for than against:
Dustin Byfuglien, by 5v5 shots: +33/-14. By goals: +0/-1. pic.twitter.com/MLgwCAl84C
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) May 19, 2018
But those are the bounces sometimes, and it’s perhaps appropriate that a team like Vegas that’s made up of players discarded by the rest of the league once again capitalized on another team’s mistake. And they now need just one more win to advance to the final, and continue writing their remarkable story.
As for the Jets, they’ve had an impressive postseason run of their own, by far the best in the history of the Thrashers-Jets franchise (which isn’t saying much, considering that this is the team’s 18th season, but the first one with even a single playoff win), but they now have their backs against the wall. Game 5’s in Winnipeg Sunday, and the Jets will need to come out on fire there to keep this series going. Otherwise, it will be the Golden Knights moving on, and proving that knights defeating fighter jets can happen in more than just early editions of the Civilization franchise and pre-game ceremonies.