Fred Greenslade / Canadian Press via AP
Published Monday, April 24, 2023 | 9:29 p.m.
Updated 4 minutes ago
Laurent Brossoit heard it loud and clear. It didn’t faze him.
Because once upon a time, yes, he was a backup. But this backup is one win from advancing to the second round and sending his former team home for the summer.
Brossoit made 24 saves, including some key saves in the second period, to help push the Golden Knights to a 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets in Game 4 of their first-round series on Monday and take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Vegas will have the chance to close out the series at home on Thursday in Game 5.
Brossoit, the former Winnipeg goalie who backed up Connor Hellebuyck for three seasons, was met with chants of “You’re a backup!” throughout the course of the night. At times against his former team, he looked like one with 10 goals allowed through three games.
Tonight, in a must-win game to seize control of the series, Brossoit bested Hellebuyck.
“Oh, yeah. I heard it,” Brossoit said. “It’s fuel.”
Brett Howden scored the first two playoff goals of his career — and recorded his first two-goal game in the NHL — and William Karlsson scored for the third time this series to help the Golden Knights come within one win of their seventh series victory since entering the league in 2017-18.
Vegas is 3-0 all-time when leading a series 3-1 with home-ice advantage.
“He was ready from the get-go,” defenseman Shea Theodore said of Brossoit. “We know how well we can play. It didn’t seem like much fazed him.”
In a unique set of circumstances, Game 4 was set to be more pressurized than Game 3 for the Golden Knights. They stole back home-ice advantage, but they knew going into Monday that the Jets would attempt to bounce back after losing the 5-4 double overtime thriller on Saturday.
Vegas got Winnipeg’s best punch to start when Blake Wheeler scored a power-play goal at 5:53 of the first to open the scoring and give the Jets the lead.
But the Jets had to play a majority of the game shorthanded for the second straight contest when forward Mark Scheifele suffered an upper-body injury after his breakaway attempt was stopped by Brossoit. Scheifele’s momentum led him shoulder first into the boards.
Winnipeg was already without top defenseman Josh Morrissey (lower body), who is out for the rest of the series. Jets coach Rick Bowness has not ruled out Scheifele.
Despite the Jets scoring the first goal, the Golden Knights once again found an answer. The thoughts of struggling to find their footing in Game 1 and looking outmatched appear to be a distant memory.
The catalyst on this night was Howden. His bump up the lineup to play with Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone has highlighted Howden’s effectiveness this series. Coach Bruce Cassidy said at morning skate that Howden’s speed has been an effective weapon at both ends of the ice.
That was on display four minutes after Wheeler’s goal. Howden forced a turnover at the Winnipeg blue line to kickstart a 3-on-2. Howden received a pass from Stephenson, his first shot attempt was blocked, but he followed through on the rebound to tie it 1-1.
The good news for the Jets is their power play was still efficient without Scheifele and Morrissey. Winnipeg scored on both of its attempts and has scored three straight 5-on-4 goals.
Even strength has been the difference. Bowness confirmed as much, saying that both teams are getting their chances at 5-on-5.
“Pucks are going in for them and they aren’t for us,” Bowness said. “We need to find more of those greasy ones.”
Both of Vegas’ goals in the second period were of the “greasy” variety.
Karlsson gave the Golden Knights the lead at 13:32 as a power play expired, when the shot from Jonathan Marchessault deflected off his skate. Ivan Barbashev, 47 seconds later, deflected a point shot from Shea Theodore for a 3-1 lead.
Coupled with Brossoit making at least three key saves in the period, the Golden Knights went into the third in an eerily similar situation from Game 3: a solid second period that took the crowd out of it and a multigoal lead.
“We all knew it was going to be a way tougher game today,” Barbashev said. “We knew they were going to give their best.”
But the Jets played their part to make it similar to Game 3. Pierre-Luc Dubois scored 2:57 into the third, on the power play, thanks to a fortuitous bounce where the puck popped high above the net and floated over Brossoit’s shoulder.
That was the only blunder — if you could call it that — on Brossoit’s ledger.
Brossoit earned his way to be Vegas’ starter in the playoffs. Not that he’ll ever admit if he was nervous. His business-like mentality will never reveal that.
But the Golden Knights were able to fend off a late Winnipeg rally because of their “backup” goalie. On the organizational pecking order, Brossoit might be the No. 2.
Right now, he’s anything but that. And he’s one more win from sending his former team home for the summer.
“He’s a fantastic goalie,” Theodore said. “He’s on his game right now.”
Danny Webster can be reached at 702-259-8814 or [email protected]. Follow Danny on Twitter at twitter.com/DannyWebster21.