It’s been a talking point since the Game One loss in Colorado, don’t lose a playoff home game. The Vegas Golden Knights dropped the first two games of this second round series to the Colorado Avalanche, yet never showed concern. They held firm in their belief that you don’t panic until you lose a home game.
Game Three came and went and the Golden Knights got the job done. It didn’t go as they may have scripted, but they got the crucial W nonetheless. A game-tying goal from Jonathan Marchessault followed by a Max Pacioretty redirection cut the Avalanche’s series lead in half. Prior to the offensive outburst, the Avalanche were just five minutes and change away from a dominating and probably insurmountable 3-0 series lead.
Game Four’s setting was electric. The T-Mobile Arena on the famed Las Vegas strip was filled to capacity with crazed fans happily escaping the triple-digit heat for a nominal
fee. Golden Knights coaches and players do a meticulous job of crediting their fans and their barn and in this one it worked its magic.
Vegas was able to knot the series up, by holding serve at home, with an emphatic 5-1 Game Four win. The seemingly impenetrable Philip Grubauer was torched by the...Misfits... who now have a ton of momentum to bring back to Denver, as they look to take a timely series lead.
Colorado actually opened the scoring when Brandon Saad cleaned up a rebound in front of Marc-Andre Fleury. The Golden Knights’ netminder made some big saves in the opening period, but did noticeably struggle with rebound control. Saad cashed in when there shouldn’t have been a play to make. A goalie of Fleury’s caliber certainly wants that back.
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Their happiness would be cut short, as an aggressive William Karlsson helped knot the game at one, with dogged puck pursuit. His relentless forecheck led to a Patrik Nemeth turnover that Reilly Smith rang off the crossbar. Chaos ensued as the crowd roared, thinking a goal had been scored. Karlsson found the puck during the pandemonium and from the corner, flung it toward the goal with Grubauer down and out. His shot was tipped in by Jonathan Marchessault, tying the game at one.
Later in the period Marchessault made a costly error picking up a tripping penalty with 1:58 left in the opening frame. Lucky for him, a soft interference call on Cale Makar cancelled it out just :22 later. Shots were nearly even at 15-14 for the VGK after one. They erased the Colorado lead and successfully killed 22 seconds of Avalanche Power Play time. Great success!
Special teams always plays an amplified role in the playoffs. Defenses tighten up, goalies focus in, and typically goals are harder to come by. Unfortunately for the Vegas Golden Knights, the Colorado Avalanche seemed to be the better special teams club through the first three games of the series.
VGK PP: 1/7 (14.3%)
COL PP: 5/13 (38.5%)
VGK PK: 8/13 (61.5%)
COL PK: 6/7 (85.7%)
Well, the Marchessault show not only continued, but it took over our regularly scheduled programming. About ten minutes after Max Pacioretty got their club a 2-1 lead, the smallest, loudest Golden Knight cashed in on the Power Play with a big one-timer.
He was left wide open, to the right of Grubauer and actually flubbed his first one-time chance. As a reward for his retrieval, Alex Pietrangelo sent him the same pass as he was left open again and he hammered the second chance home.
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Another successful second period in the books and the Golden Knights took a 3-1 lead into the locker room. That second period marked the eighth out of their last nine periods that they’ve outplayed the Avalanche.
During the regular season, the second line of the Golden Knights silent far too often. When that Misfit line performs, the Golden Knights are hard to beat. Who knew a series against the league-leading Avalanche would be the time of their resurrection?
Their typically dangerous Power Play was unable to help the Avalanche in big moments of this series-tying game. At the 1:54 mark of the third, Zach Whitecloud got stuck with a bad luck delay of game call (off his glove). With the game still just 3-1, the Avalanche needed a goal and FAILED. About two minutes of even strength play later, their fate was realized.
Marchessault was able to cap off a hat trick 6:01 into the third period, effectively sealing the game for his team. Smith picked up the puck behind the Avalanche net and tried a short centering play to Marchessault that was turned aside. Smith got the rebound across to Marchessault who was now on the opposite post for a slam dunk that produced a ga-gillion hats.
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Patrick Brown, the Henderson Silver Knights’ (AHL) first-ever captain added a feel-good goal, to really ice the hockey game. Vegas dominated this one. After the Marchessault hat trick goal, Grubauer should’ve been spared the shellacking, with his .941 playoff save percentage having been sent into oblivion. It was a tough outcome for the goaltender despite his actually solid game.
Tale of the Tape (5v5)
Corsi For %: 53.66% VGK
Scoring Chances: 27-13 VGK
High Danger Chances: 17-5 VGK
Expected Goals: 2.67-1.22 VGK
Complete domination by a hungry, determined Golden Knights club. Pete DeBoer has been a valuable addition to this club that used to run on fumes and chips on their shoulder. His structure and history of success have the Golden Knights stifling the high-powered Avalanche. Players make plays, but the brains of the operation deserve their praise too.
Game Five is scheduled for a 6:00 PDT puck drop in Denver. It will be interesting to see if the Avalanche shuffle lines, implement more dump and rush forecheck, or make any visible adjustments. Avalanche Coach Jared Bednar went as far as admitting that his stars have been frustrated by the VGK, after the game.
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Changes are needed and will likely be coming for Tuesday. This best of seven just became a best of three and now more than ever, it’s anyone’s ball...err....puck game. The depth is back for the Vegas Golden Knights and they’re hoping it lasts. If it does, there’s a good chance that Stanley Cup Final games will be played in the Fortress once again.
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