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Hot Knights cool Jets for 2-1 series lead

The Associated PressLAS VEGAS (AP) — Jonathan Marchessault vowed after the Golden Knights’ morning skate to come out swinging in Game 3 of the Western Conference final, looking to avoid a back-and-forth affair with the Winnipeg Jets.

He didn’t disappoint.

For the second straight game, Marchessault scored two goals — including one just 35 seconds into the game — to lead Vegas to a 4-2 victory Wednesday, helping the expansion Golden Knights to a 2-1 series lead.

Vegas, two wins from advancing to the Stanley Cup final, improved to 5-1 at home in the playoffs and host Game 4 on Friday night.

“We worked all year to get in a position like that,” Marchessault said. “We definitely can’t take it for granted. They got to come out like their season’s on the line, so we’ve got to be ready to push back and get some energy off the crowd.”

Marchessault added an empty-net goal with 3 seconds left, becoming the first player in league history to score in the first and last 60 seconds of the same playoff game, according to the NHL. He leads Vegas with 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in the postseason, and needs two goals to tie the NHL record for the most by a player in his club’s first postseason appearance.

James Neal and Alex Tuch also scored for Vegas, while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 33 shots.

Mark Scheifele scored both of Winnipeg’s goals and has a playoff-leading 14 goals in 15 postseason games. Connor Hellebuyck had 26 saves for the Jets, who arrived in Las Vegas having outscored their opposition 23-15 in road games during the playoffs.

“A few miscues and they made us pay for it; that can’t happen,” Scheifele said. “We can’t sulk on this too long. We’ve got to pick ourselves up tomorrow and be ready for a big game on Friday.”

Teams with a 2-1 lead in the conference final (or NHL semifinals) have won the series 35 of 43 times (81.4 percent) since 1975.

“That’s an important challenge,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “We’re going to have to be able to handle that. It would be rare that you lead the series straight through. We want to make sure we deal with our loss, don’t carry it too heavily and then come up with our finest game of the postseason.”

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