Once again it was Vegas’ second line that led the way, as Reilly Smith put this one away, scoring just over seven minutes into extra time to lift Vegas to victory.
The Knights now hold a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Speaking of 2-0 leads, Vegas jumped out to one in the first period with goals from Paul Stastny and Tomas Nosek.
Stastny scored his first of the postseason on what seemed like the second line’s 10th great chance of the period.
Though Stastny had the finish, it was a nice feed from Jonathan Marchessault that set up the play.
Confirmed: sharing is caring pic.twitter.com/2f9iqdJV8T— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) August 13, 2020
Nosek was a late addition to the lineup with the surprising last-minute scratch of Max Pacioretty, and he made his presence felt early with a goal late in the opening frame.
William Carrier was strong on the puck at the blue line to enter the zone, and Nosek took care of the rest as his playoff prowess continued.
It was a stoppable puck Corey Crawford probably would like to have back, though, as it went under his blocker arm.
It was the fourth line’s second goal of the series, but Nosek left the game in the second period and did not return.
No update on Pacioretty or Nosek right now, per DeBoer. "As of now, unfit to play." #VegasBorn— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) August 14, 2020
While Patrick Kane beat Robin Lehner five-hole and hit the far post at the tail end of the first period, the Knights took a 2-0 lead into intermission.
When they returned, however, it was Chicago’s time to shine, as the middle frame was Chicago’s best of the series.
The Blackhawks cut the two-goal deficit in half when they capitalized on a puzzling line-change mishap by the Knights. Kirby Dach scored off a rebound on a wide-open cage to get Chicago on the board.
Lehner overcommitted, leaving the back door exposed.
The Knights’ top line had some great chances, but Crawford made what turned out to be some huge saves.
That’s because later in the period, the Knights took their second undisciplined penalty of the game, and Chicago made them pay. Dominik Kubalik knotted it up at 2-2 on the man advantage after three Vegas skaters followed Kane, leaving the Calder Trophy finalist alone in the slot.
Dominik Kubalik PP— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 13, 2020
Lehner was screened on the play, though it was still a relatively soft goal as he read the play correctly but seemed to just whiff on the save.
With 11 forwards on the bench and the two-goal lead erased, Pete DeBoer put Mark Stone with Marchessault and Stastny, and it paid off. Stone scored to make it 3-2 with under three minutes in the frame.
Crawford had no chance as the puck took a favorable bounce off the undetected Stone, who had no trouble putting it home.
But the Knights would surrender a lead for the second time in the period as Chicago evened things up with just 14 seconds left.
Kane’s perfect backhand cross-ice feed made life easy for the wide-open Dylan Strome, who tapped the puck into the net on yet another backdoor goal.
But as has been the case all postseason, the Knights dominated in the third period. They outshot the Blackhawks 16-6 and held the edge in shot attempts (25-10), scoring chances (17-3) and high-danger chances (5-2).
However, Crawford was up to the task and stopped all 16 shots he faced, which force overtime.
Despite a rough start, the Knights came out with a similar hunger in overtime. The Blackhawks had some good looks early, including a shot from Strome that went off the crossbar.
The Knights followed that up with a post at the other end, so it felt like it might be a long night.
However, Smith saw to that.
A strong shift by the third line, including a great keep by Nick Cousins to keep the play alive in the offensive zone, played a key role in the game-winner. Cousins then dished the puck to Stastny, who fed a wide-open Smith in front of the net. Smith made no mistake, notching his second point of the night and fifth of the series.
Ultimately, Vegas outshot Chicago 7-1 in extra time and 39-25 in the game.
To Chicago’s credit, it was a tight game. At times that was due to Crawford’s strong play, particularly in the third period, and at times it was due to the Blackhawks asserting themselves offensively, something Chicago did not do in Game 1. Kane had three assists in his best game of the playoffs, but it wasn’t enough to get the win.
Though the Knights faltered at times throughout the contest, they finished the game with nearly double the scoring chances (33-17), expected goals (2.34-1.22) and high-danger chances (11-6) at 5-on-5. They held a 3-to-1 edge in Corsi in the third period (21-7) and outshot Chicago 14-2 at 5-on-5.
William Karlsson had a standout performance despite not being able to put the puck in the net, and Vegas’ third line was very effective despite not scoring (though the line helped set up the game-winner). In fact, Nicolas Roy, Cousins and Alex Tuch finished first on the team in Corsi For percentage (75, 69.57 and 66.67, respectively).
Lehner made 22 saves on 25 shots for an .880 save percentage. It wasn’t his best night, though he remains undefeated as a Golden Knight.
But once again, Vegas’ second line was the star of the show. Smith, Marchessault and Stastny combined for six points in Game 2, bringing their series total to 11 through two games. They had countless other chances and were dangerous every time they were on the ice.
One would think the Blackhawks will try to come up with an answer for their dominance when the series “shifts to Chicago” for Game 3 on Saturday night.