Jets return home looking to rebound against Knights

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — If things are supposed to even themselves out in the end, the Winnipeg Jets should come out on top in the back end of their first two games against the Las Vegas Golden Knights on Friday.

All they’ve got to do is hope the Knights find the same number of distractions in Winnipeg that the Jets did in Las Vegas exactly three weeks ago leading up to a 5-2 loss.

Just-below freezing temperatures at The Forks, the historical meeting place of fur traders 200 years ago, versus the blackjack table at Bally’s on the strip?

No problem.

The Jets are hoping to rebound from a disappointing 3-2 overtime loss on the road in Denver on Wednesday, a night where they led 2-1 with eight minutes to play despite having handled the puck most of the evening like it was a hand grenade. Their undoing was a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty — their second of the game — with eight seconds left in regulation.

Defenseman Josh Morrissey was the victim on a pair of unlucky plays in the extra frame. The Avs scored what appeared to be the winner early in the power play on a deflection off Morrissey’s stick, but it was overturned on appeal because the play was offside. Seconds later, though, Nate MacKinnon scored the real winner with a shot that deflected off Morrissey’s pants and past Connor Hellebuyck

“Going into overtime 4-on-3 they’ve got a lot of skill,” Morrissey told the Winnipeg Free Press. “I thought we had a pretty good plan. We got fortunate with the offside (call). We tried to come back and I think the shot went off my backside and in. … We found a way at least to get a point.”

With that point, the Jets ran their record to 15-6-4, good for second place in the NHL’s Western Conference, one point behind the St. Louis Blues, their Central Division rivals.

Perhaps the biggest development in Colorado was the demotion of right winger Patrik Laine to the fourth line. The Finnish sniper has struggled much of the season yet is still second on the team in scoring with 11 goals, trailing only center Mark Scheifele’s 12.

The Golden Knights, meanwhile, continue to be the biggest surprise in the NHL — on the positive side, that is, which ignores the hugely underperforming Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens. They come to town having lost 4-2 to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night in St. Paul, two days after being shut out 3-0 by Dallas, marking their first back-to-back losses in regulation since Nov. 2. Still, they’re 15-8-1 and way ahead of where any prognosticators thought they’d be at the start of the season.

Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said he felt his team had good “jump” in the third period against the Wild — where they had a lead for a brief 48 seconds — but it wasn’t enough.

“We battled back and got a lead 2-1 and then Minnesota fought back and took it at the end but we played well, we worked hard and competed hard and if we do that most nights on the road we’ll get some points,” he said.