The Vegas Golden Knights can take a stranglehold on the Western Conference Final on Friday night if they are able to hold off the Winnipeg Jets and earn a victory in Game 4 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The Golden Knights had to withstand a strong third-period flurry from the visiting Jets in Game 3, and they clinched the game when Jonathan Marchessault scored his second goal of the game into an empty net in the final minute.
Marchessault also scored the opening goal when he slipped a backhand shot by Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck at the 35-second mark of the first period.
The Golden Knights are seeking a 3-1 edge in the series, and they are -113 favorites to win the game at home, according to OddsShark (wager $113 to win $100). The Jets are +102 underdogs to square the series.
The expansion team has also moved into the favorite's role when it comes to winning the Stanley Cup. OddsShark lists the Golden Knights as +183 to win the championship, followed by the Washington Capitals at +245, the Tampa Bay Lightning at +400 and the Jets at +405.
Those were the odds before the Lightning tied the Eastern Conference Final at 2-2 Thursday night, so it's quite likely that the numbers on the Capitals and Lightning will change.
Two of the possible three remaining games will be played at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, but no home team has won a game to this point in the series.
Conference Final Remaining Schedule (all times ET)
Western Conference Final, Vegas leads series 2-1
Winnipeg Jets at Vegas Golden Knight, May 18, 8 p.m., NBCSN
Vegas Golden Knights at Winnipeg Jets, May 20, 3 p.m., NBC
Winnipeg Jets at Vegas Golden Knights, May 22, 9 p.m., NBCSN, if necessary
Vegas Golden Knights at Winnipeg Jets, May 24, 8 p.m., NBCSN, if necessary
Eastern Conference Final, series tied 2-2
Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning, May 19, 7:15 p.m., NBC
Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals, May 21, 8 p.m., NBCSN
Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning, May 23, 8 p.m., NBCSN, if necessary
The Jets are considered to be one of the fastest teams in the NHL, if not the fastest. That speed allowed Winnipeg to jump all over the Golden Knights in the first game of the series with a 4-2 victory.
However, Vegas has been far more competitive since the series opener, and one of the key factors is the battle level the Golden Knights have shown along the boards.
Winnipeg put pressure on the Golden Knights throughout the third period of Game 3, and they were able to cut Vegas' lead to 3-2 early in the stanza when Mark Scheifele slammed home a shot as he made his way to the front of the net at the 18-second mark.
However, Marc-Andre Fleury was sensational in goal the rest of the way, and he kept the Jets from tying the game and sending it into overtime. He was at his best on a pair of back-to-back saves on shots by Scheifele midway through the third period.
"It's crazy," said Vegas defenseman Luca Sbisa following the Game 3 victory, per Shawn P. Roarke of NHL.com. "I just saw it on the replay. Sometimes you just have to shake your head. You don't really know how he makes those saves. Glad he's on our team. He's been doing it all year."
The Jets played sensational hockey in defeating the Minnesota Wild and the Nashville Predators earlier in the postseason. They may not beat the expansion Golden Knights, but they will not go down easily.
They will set the tone in Game 4, score the opening goal and take it to Vegas. Winnipeg will square the series with a road victory, and the team's speed will be decisive.
Look for this series to go seven games. Winnipeg throws a counterpunch and turns this series into a classic.