The Vegas Golden Knights took care of home-ice advantage. Now comes the fun part of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Golden Knights, holding a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 first round series against the Los Angeles Kings, will have the daunting task of trying for a third straight victory at Staples Center on Sunday in Los Angeles.
This has been as close of a series as you’d expect. The goaltending duel of Marc-Andre Fleury and Jonathan Quick has been excellent. The top six for each team has made an impact at both ends of the ice. No team has had a true advantage in this series, but that could change with the next two games being in L.A.
Here’s what to watch for in this pivotal Game 3.
Someone’s got to score, right?
Four goals through 150-plus minutes of hockey. Something’s got to happen eventually.
That speaks to how great the goaltending has been. The fact it took 54 saves from Jonathan Quick before Vegas finally broke the dam is a testament to how great the two-time Stanley Cup champion has been.
The same goes for Marc-Andre Fleury, who had a shutout in Game 1 and a 29-save victory in Game 2. One more win will tie Fleury with Dominik Hasek (65) for ninth place on the NHL’s all-time postseason wins list. In a game with so much on the line. having goaltenders of this caliber is going to prove vital.
Barring any scoring outbursts, expect Game 3 to go as the first two have.
The return of Drew Doughty
The Norris Trophy winner returns to the lineup after serving a one-game suspension in Game 2 for hitting William Carrier in the head. Doughty will make his return, and will look to make an impact over his “BS” suspension, as he calls it.
Doughty will surely be rested, unlike his fellow defensemen contingent. Alec Martinez led the Kings with 44:58, followed by Christian Fantenberg at 41:10 and Anze Kopitar at 38:54. The latter is a forward, mind you.
Somehow, the Kings managed to rotate six defensemen in overtime and still played Fantenberg and Martinez a ton.
Even though Doughty was a limited factor in Game 1, he has the ability to take over a game and make the subtle plays necessary for the Kings to win. With how quiet L.A.’s offense has been, it takes one or two rushes from the blueliners to get things going. Doughty does that, and Vegas needs to make sure his pent-up frustration doesn’t result in the Kings getting back into this series.
How do the Golden Knights handle the pressure?
This is another first the Golden Knights haven’t dealt with before — playing a road playoff game.
As written Saturday, I believe the Golden Knights are ready for this moment. Game 2 was the pinnacle. Not only did Vegas win in overtime, but it was the patience and not rushing the result that was the key. The Golden Knights did everything right in the 35-plus minutes of sudden death overtime, albeit it took longer than expected.
Look no further than the Vegas penalty kill with 10:53 remaining in the first overtime. That’s the moment the Golden Knights won that game.
It’s going to take another patient game for Vegas. But that’s why investing in guys like James Neal, Deryk Engelland, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Fleury were the right moves 10 months ago — for moments like this.
It usually takes a bit for the offense to kick in. Vegas gets it done.
Golden Knights 3, Kings 2.
How to watch
Time: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports Network, AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, Fox Sports West
Radio: Fox Sports Radio 98.9 FM/1340 AM