NHL: Knights, fighting for better playoff position, pay Jets a visit

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After capturing three of four possible points on a difficult back-to-back to start their four-game road trip, the Vegas Golden Knights continue their quest to improve their playoff standing when they visit the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night.

Vegas (39-25-8, 86 points) currently holds the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference, sitting six points ahead of the St. Louis Blues.

In the Pacific Division, the Golden Knights are four points behind the second-place Edmonton Oilers, who have two games in hand, and one point behind the third-place Los Angeles Kings, who have one game in hand.

The Golden Knights opened the trip with a 2-1 overtime victory over the Blues on Monday. Vegas looked to be in good shape to complete a sweep of the back-to-back when it took a 4-1 lead into the third period against Nashville on Tuesday.

However, the Predators rallied for three third-period goals in a span of just over seven minutes, then won 5-4 on a Roman Josi goal 40 seconds into overtime.

“We had a great 40 minutes,” Vegas defenseman Noah Hanifin said. “It’s just playing that complete 60 is something we have to get better at, obviously.”

Blowing the big lead cost Vegas a chance to head into the contest with the Jets in a tie with Los Angeles for third in the Pacific at 87 points.

“The points are really important for us right now,” said Golden Knights forward Ivan Barbashev, who scored his 100th career goal on Tuesday. “We got one of them (Tuesday). We’ve just got to keep going forward trying to forget about (the game against Nashville).”

Hanifin isn’t dwelling on the past, either.

“Obviously we have two huge games coming up again,” Hanifin said, referring to the meeting with the Jets and a Saturday game against the Minnesota Wild. “It’s unfortunate (to blow the lead), but we’ve got to turn the page, get a good day of rest (Wednesday) and get ready to go because we’re going to have a big test on Thursday.”

Winnipeg (44-22-6, 94 points) sits in third in a very competitive Central Division race — five points behind the first-place Dallas Stars and three behind the second-place Colorado Avalanche. Dallas has played one more game than Colorado and Winnipeg.

The Jets are in the midst of a four-game winless streak (0-3-1), including a 4-3 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.

Unlike Vegas, Winnipeg came away feeling somewhat positive following the setback after rallying from a 3-1, third-period deficit. Zach Hyman scored 1:22 into the extra period to win it for Edmonton.

“I thought … it was a good effort by us, but at the end of the day we need to get two points out of them,” said Jets defensemen Brenden Dillon, who sparked the rally against the Oilers with a goal 9:39 into the third. “We just continue to prove to ourselves throughout this year, through now 72 games, when we’re on our game, when we’re playing the way that we talk about Winnipeg Jet hockey, we’re an elite team.”

Thursday marks the third and final meeting of the season between the teams. The Golden Knights won 5-3 at Winnipeg on Oct. 19 and 5-2 in Las Vegas on Nov. 2.

–Field Level Media

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