St. Louis Blues defender Kyle Brodziak defends against Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele (L) in the first period on February 23, 2018 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- If you'd like to make the Vegas Golden Knights-Winnipeg Jets Western Conference Final a little more interesting, go all-in on the expansion franchise.
Since 1973, the team that has captured a 2-1 lead in the semifinal has gone on to take the series 87.5 percent of the time, winning 35 of 43 encounters. After Wednesday night's 4-2 victory, that puts the Golden Knights in the cat bird's seat.
And the team that takes a 3-1 lead has gone on to win more than 90 percent of the time.
So, yeah, you could say Game 4 on Friday night at T-Mobile Arena is pretty much must-win territory for the visitors.
If the Jets are to have any chance of pulling this series out, they're going to need some scoring from somebody not named Mark Scheifele. The No. 1 center has scored 14 of his team's 50 goals thus far in the playoffs, a 28 percent clip, including both goals on Wednesday.
Scheifele would have had a hat trick if it weren't for a couple of spectacular saves by Marc-Andre Fleury in the Golden Knights' net. Scheifele's 11 goals on the road are an NHL playoff record.
Forwards Patrik Laine, Bryan Little, Mathieu Perreault and Adam Lowry have been a shadow of their regular-season selves. Laine, who had 44 goals this year, has but four in the postseason and has hit a half-dozen posts.
Ehlers, who had 29 goals, has yet to notch one in 13 games and was a mysterious scratch on Wednesday night.
Little has one goal in 15 playoff games after producing 16 this season, Perreault has just a single point and Lowry hasn't scored since December.
Scheifele, the Jets' first No. 1 draft pick since relocating in 2011, wasn't pointing fingers, choosing instead to praise the Golden Knights.
"We're in the conference finals. They're a good team, too," he told The Winnipeg Sun. "They're going to have their games, we're going to have our games. We can't sulk on this too long. We've got to pick ourselves up."
If nothing else, it should be comforting to the Jets that home ice hasn't been quite the advantage that most people assume it is. Road teams are 38-35 in these playoffs. On the flip side, the Golden Knights are 5-1 at home in the postseason.
There's little question that Fleury has been the star for the home side. In addition to 33 saves on Wednesday, he also took part in a scrum in his crease.
But instead of planting his blocker in somebody's face, he gave Jets captain Blake Wheeler a "wet willie" by sticking his finger in his ear.
"I did that?" Fleury said at his locker afterward. "There are cameras everywhere."
The three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Pittsburgh Penguins has a 10-3 record and a sparkling .945 save percentage in the playoffs.