After calling the game a 'must win' following their game one loss to the Jets Saturday and stating they were going to see what kind of team they were the 27 year-old winger fired a pair of goals to pace the Vegas Golden Knights to a 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets and tied their Western Conference Final Series at a game apiece.
"I mean if you're going to talk to the media and say stuff like you have to better I think you need by example," he said. "I tried to do that tonight."
Both of his tallies came on the backhand, the first a neat backhand deke in the first period and the second a similar goal off of Reilly Smith feed which he parked past Winnipeg goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, just inside the left post.
Tomas Tatar also scored for Vegas.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 stops for the Golden Knights.
Kyle Connor scored Winnipeg's lone goal on the night.
Connor Hellebuyck turned aside 25 shots for the Jets.
Tomas Tatar got the Golden Knights on the board 13:23 into the first period, stuffing a puck past Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck's stick to make it 1-0 Vegas.
Defenceman Shea Theodore hit Tatar with a pass from the slot which he attempted to one time past Hellebuyck but was stymied.
Tatar chased the rebound behind the goal line and hammered the puck past Hellebuyck's stick at the goal post to give the Golden Knights their first lead of the series.
The goal was Tatar's first of the post-season.
"You just wanna drop everything and play my game," said Tatar, who was only playing in his 4th post-season game after being made a healthy scratch for most of the playoffs.
"You play your hockey like you did before. Obviously after the goal you start feeling better and better."
Tatar got wind of the plan to insert him in the lineup during the morning skate.
"I kind of knew. I’ve played enough games in the NHL to not be worried before the game, but obviously you get a little nervous when you see the crowd and it’s a conference final, but it wasn’t anything (that affected me)," he said. Jonathan Marchessault made it 2-0 off a turnover by Jets winger Kyle Connor in the neutral zone.
Connor misplayed the puck at centre ice and Vegas winger Riley Smith knocked the disc to Marchessault who skated in and put a backhand deke on Hellebuyck before sliding the puck through his pads.
The goal was his 5th of the post-season.
There was no scoring in the second period.
Kyle Connor scored 7:17 into the third, sneaking a puck tight to the post past Vegas goaltender Andre-Marc Fleury to get Winnipeg on the board.
The goal was his 3rd of the playoffs.
Tyler Myers took control of the puck from behind his net and rushed up ice before dishing to Ehlers, who walked the blue line before getting the puck to Connor who strided left to a sharper angle before shooting.
Fleury was unable to squeeze the puck and it beat him between his torso and elbow.
The momentum swing was short lived however as Marchessault scored his second of the contest just 1:28 later, lifting a backhand past Hellebuyck to restore the Golden Knights two-goal lead.
Reilly Smith charged into the Winnipeg zone with the puck before feeding Marchessault who lifted a backhander past Hellebucyk's right pad to make it 3-1.
Jets Head Coach Paul Maurice thought the Golden Knights played a better game in game two. "They were better, for sure," he said.
"There's two things. The one that cost us I think is that we is pushed too early, got out of our routes too early. Then the second piece of that was what I'd said earlier is that we didn't do anything clean, we didn't do anything quickly. That part I think was true of the whole game and we want to be better there."
Winnipeg Captain Blake Wheeler said they didn't play terribly, but a few bad moments cost them. “There was about 57 minutes of that game that was pretty good for us. Three minutes of it got away from us. They could have scored four goals in three minutes. We just gotta stay with it better. Realize that they have some guys on their team that can make plays as well. There’s going to be moments in this series where they get scoring chances. They’re gonna create some momentum and put the puck in the net. It’s just a matter of how you react to it," he said.
“They (Golden Knights) scored two goals and we just kind of got away from it. The second one was tough, didn’t really see what happened. Just kind of a breakdown. Gave up a breakaway off the next faceoff. Just little things that are easy to clean up.”
There is little panic coming from the Jets dressing room about their latest loss according to defenceman Jacob Trouba.
“It’s a series. I don’t think anybody is panicking. We’ve been here before. It’s a long series. We’re going to go to Vegas. We like our road game, we like where it was in the Nashville series and we’re going to try and bring the same effort.”
Game three goes Wednesday night in Las Vegas.
SHOTS-LAS VEGAS WINNIPEG ATTENDANCE-15,294