Ill-timed mistakes cost Jets in Game 3 loss to Golden Knights

LAS VEGAS — There are mistakes you can make in the regular season, and survive. Or perhaps even in Round 1.

But three blatant miscues by three separate Jets players led to all three Vegas goals in a 4-2, empty-net goal loss here in Game 3. We are just too far along, the opponent too opportunistic, to reap any reward from a game in which the mistakes are this costly.

“Yes, I think that’s fair,” began head coach Paul Maurice, when asked about neutral zone turnovers by Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor that turned into goals, and the freebie Connor Hellebuyck coughed up just 12 seconds after the Jets had tied the game at 1-1.

“Those weren’t the only ones … and each one of those guys has been game winners for us, and played great. So in the body of their work, it’s not part of their game,” he said. “But they have some good sticks (Vegas). Knocked some stuff down.”

This is your reward for still suiting up on May 16, the prize for being a Final Four team. Every single mistake could turn into a crippling miscue, the same way every bit of fortune could label you a hero.

It’s better than worrying over a missed putt, right?

Sometimes, you get away with them. Maybe a teammate makes a play, or the goalie saves your bacon.

But in Game 3, with goals so precious, it was Hellebuyck who gave up the biggest freebie of the night when he tried to sneak a puck between Erik Haula and the boards behind the Jets net, just seconds after Scheifele had evened the game.

Haula pulled the puck down, like so many players of this caliber are likely to do, and quickly fed James Neal in front of an empty net. Yes, things happen fast in the NHL. But letting the momentum evaporate that fast was wasteful, on a goal that Vegas just didn’t have to work hard enough to get.

“No, I don’t think that’s fair at all,” countered Hellebuyck. “The guy knocked it out of mid-air. He made a good play on it. I’ve been doing that all year long.

“It’s unlucky that he knocked that one down. I don’t know that he was even looking. He might have just swung his stick at it. But good play on him. I’m going to clean that one up. I haven’t given it away too many times this year. So we gotta put that one behind us.”

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