Erik Haula and Gerard Gallant commented on Haula striking Kopitar last night.
Erik Haula: I didn't think about what happened. Crowd started screaming. He landed on my back. I was trying to get up. I had no intention of doing what the replay shows. Hopefully, he's okay. I didn't mean to do that.
Steve Carp: If he doesn't cross-check you in the back of the head, maybe you don't retaliate?
EH: I didn't even feel a cross-check or anything. The puck's laying there, there's a battle. He landed on my back. I was just trying to get up. I didn't know where the puck was. I did not mean to do that.
Sheng Peng: Do you know if it was your fist or your stick that struck him?
EH: I was just holding my stick as I normally would. I don't think the stick hit him. I feel like if I would've had the butt end of my stick hit him, there would've been a mark on his face or something. I was just holding my stick, trying to get up. Accidentally hit him.
Sheng Peng: John Stevens was adamant that Erik Haula struck Anze Kopitar with the butt end of his stick last night. What was your take on the play?
Gerard Gallant: I've seen the play. It's nothing major, for sure. I thought Kopitar cross-checked him pretty good, knocked him to the ground. Haula got up and pushed him back with his glove.
Kopitar's not a diver; he's a respected player. Part of the glove hit him; I can't see anything else. He was fine. It's not a dirty play.
LOS ANGELES -- With two third period goals in 21 seconds, the Golden Knights put the Kings at death's door with a 3-2 Game Three triumph. They're now up 3-0 in this best-of-seven series.
Cody Eakin said of Los Angeles, "They were coming at us with waves all night."
Perhaps fortunate to be down just a goal, Vegas pushed back against the tide early in the third:
I'm going to let David Perron take over from here:
Whoever put that around the boards, I loved it. If their goalie misses it, it was a tough play for the D to make something out of it.
Personally, I like corners. I like to make plays off of that. Find the open man.
Perron is referring to Ryan Carpenter, who rims it hard behind Jonathan Quick. Quick is able to slow it down, but he doesn't stop the puck.
Jeff Carter has a chance to move it, but a hard-charging Eakin cuts off his possible pass attempt.
"I just tried to grab the boards so he couldn't chip it out," offered Eakin. "I think it hit off my stick or skate."
"Some critical errors at critical times along the wall," observed John Stevens.
I was able to find Colin Miller there. Hit the cross bar. That's where it started. Really pushed them back.
With his deliberate manner, Perron drew three Kings to him before his pass to Miller. Three Kings. Of course, this kind of hyper-focus by the defense opens up space for other Golden Knights.
And indeed, Miller's crossbar would send LA into a scramble, as a blown coverage would doom the home team.
Perron goes on:
It came right to my stick. You don't see that too often, off the crossbar, right to my stick. (laughs) I just tried to deke a little bit to open up some space because I knew Eaks was going through.
Perron makes Carter reach, and then he teaches, sliding the puck into the slot for a waiting Eakin. Dion Phaneuf steps up and blocks it. The richocet dribbles to Carpenter, also in the slot.
Goes off the body, Carpy gives it right back to him.
Phaneuf chases Carpenter, which all things considered, is a natural instinct. Tanner Pearson, who's watching the point, heads toward Carpenter. Nobody else is close to Eakin, who slinks off to Quick's side, unmarked.
Going back to his pivotal pass to Miller, Perron remarked:
I don't think they expected me to see him backdoor. That's what I try to bring. Some guys bring different things. I try to bring playmaking ability.
This was Perron's first game in three weeks. The Golden Knights have missed Perron's playmaking; I've missed his quotability.
However, the most impressive part of the play may not have been the set-up, but Smith beating Tobias Rieder and Jake Muzzin to the puck after a faceoff loss.
Rieder even interferes with Smith -- perhaps called in the regular season, but not the playoffs -- as Smith blasts through him. Muzzin is slow back; it makes me wonder if he's fully recovered from whatever kept him out of the first two games of the series.
It's striking how Smith moves his feet immediately after the faceoff, whereas a flat-footed Rieder, instead of opting to skate with Smith, decides instead to try to halt him with a light cross-check. That's where Smith beats Rieder.
Smith gains and maintains body position on Rieder, despite Rieder's best recovery efforts.
Meanwhile, Drew Doughty, perhaps expecting a Smith rim at best, considering two of his teammates are draped over the Vegas winger, leaves the front of the net vacated. Karlsson happily fills the void.
Perhaps Smith didn't even see Karlsson, he just hoped there would a Knight driving the net.
"It looked like a set play," said Gallant. "I don't know if it was or not. If it was, Marchessault lost the faceoff on purpose. It wasn't a play we worked on. The coaches didn't put it together; maybe they did it as a line."
In the second period, the Golden Knights appeared as if they were losing their composure.
Haula's shot was uncalled, which riled Stevens, "He butt ends one of the best players in the world in the face with the butt end of his stick. You guys make the judgement, because it’s a bunch of B.S., to be honest with you."
The video is inconclusive -- there's no clear indication of a stick striking Kopitar -- but it's certainly worth a look by the league. Haula should sit out a game if it's determined that he did indeed hit Kopitar in the face intentionally with the butt end of his stick.
(Update: The NHL has decided that Haula will not receive a hearing for striking Kopitar. Since the video is not conclusive, hopefully the league has done their due diligence to ferret out whether or not Haula hit Kopitar with his butt end. That kind of contact especially is dangerous and has no place in the game; if the NHL has determined that Kopitar wasn't hit by Haula's stick, I have no problem with them letting the issue slide.)
Vegas was able to collect itself in the final 20, avoiding the box again at least until they had built a 3-1 lead.
"We just harped on staying out of the box," noted James Neal, about what was said between periods. "You take penalties, they're going to kill you. I took a slashing penalty there that I would like to have back."
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