The Vegas Golden Knights are now just one win away from advancing to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after defeating the Winnipeg Jets 4-2 in Game 4 with a chance to end the series at home on Thursday night.
Seven different players got on the scoresheet for the Golden Knights in this game, with Chandler Stephenson, Brett Howden and Shea Theodore each having multi-point performances. As for the Jets, Neal Pionk and Blake Wheeler each had two points as well, with Pionk now having five assists over the last two games.
Looking at the Golden Knights’ playoff history, the fourth game in each series has proven to be a pivotal moment in their postseason success. They now have an 8-4 all-time record in Game 4 with this being their fourth straight win, and are 5-1 when leading the series 2-1.
Mark Scheifele Exits Game With Upper-Body Injury
After being denied on a breakaway early in the first period, Jets center Mark Scheifele went crashing into the boards at high speed before slowly getting up and returning to the bench in some clear discomfort. He came out for his next shift on the power play where he attempted a one-timer and grimaced in pain as he grabbed his left arm, which led to him leaving the game immediately after.
With no clear timeline for Scheifele’s return, his absence could end up being the deciding factor in this series. Despite scoring just one goal in the playoffs so far, his presence in the Jets’ top six and on the power play makes them far more dangerous, and their center depth will look significantly weaker without him. Both Pierre-Luc Dubois and Adam Lowry, who have played extremely well through four games, will get larger roles in his absence and will need to continue to perform at a high level in order to bring the Jets back in this series.
The Jets already entered this game without their star defenseman, Josh Morrissey, who was ruled out for the rest of this series after suffering a lower-body injury in Game 3. Despite injuries plaguing the Golden Knights throughout the regular season they’ve been fortunate enough to stay fully healthy thus far, and will need to take advantage of that heading into Game 5.
Brett Howden’s Playoff Breakout
Heading into this series, one of the biggest keys to success for the Golden Knights was going to be their advantage in offensive depth. So many teams that have had success in the postseason get contributions from unlikely heroes throughout their lineup and the Golden Knights have gotten that in two consecutive games, with Michael Amadio scoring the overtime winner in Game 3 and Brett Howden putting on the best performance of his career in this game.
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Howden slotted in on the second line once again alongside Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone and provided energy throughout the entire game. He was finishing checks, diving for loose pucks, and was rewarded for his efforts on a great second-chance finish to tie the game 1-1 halfway through the first period.
Brett Howden equalizer! 🚨 pic.twitter.com/NLUlmbVMXL— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 25, 2023
Howden finished with two goals, with his second coming on an empty net to seal the deal for the Golden Knights in the final minute of play. This was the first multi-goal game of his career, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Golden Knights.
Laurent Brossoit Stands Tall
The Golden Knights have been able to put 13 goals past the Jets’ MVP of the regular season in Connor Hellebuyck over the last three games, while Brossoit has allowed just eight. Goaltending was one of the biggest advantages that the Jets had over the Golden Knights heading into this series, but Brossoit has surprisingly ended up being the only one who has had a performance that has defined the outcome of a game.
This wasn’t a game that the Golden Knights will be proud of on the defensive side of things, but they will definitely be proud of the goaltending performance that they’ve gotten over the last two games. Brossoit hasn’t given up a goal at even strength in the last five periods of play and stopped 24 of the 26 shots he faced in this game, with this being his most impressive performance of the series.
There were a number of sequences where the Golden Knights were pressured in their own zone for extended periods of time, including the final two minutes of the game when the Jets were playing with the 6-on-5 advantage, and Brossoit remained composed. His confidence has been growing with each game and they should feel positive about having him in the crease as the series continues.
The Golden Knights put together the 11th straight win from a road team in these playoffs, which is a remarkable stat considering how much home advantage has historically played a role in the postseason. With the Seattle Kraken breaking that streak in their overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche later on Monday night, the intangible superstitions and momentum swing could be in favour of the Golden Knights heading into Game 5 at T-Mobile Arena on Thursday.
With the Jets heading into Game 5 on the brink of elimination with a depleted roster, the Golden Knights can’t afford to take their foot off the gas and give them any chance to get back in this series. The fourth game is always the hardest one to win, but this team is in a great position to get things wrapped up on Thursday night.