The Vegas Golden Knights hold a 3-2 series lead against the Vancouver Canucks. That lead was 3-1 prior to Tuesday night’s 2-1 defeat, which was a lost opportunity for the Knights to close out the series. Instead, the Canucks are still alive and now have a chance to force a Game 7.
The Knights have been here before. This is not new.
However, the Knights are looking to write a different story this time around.
Last year, Vegas held a 3-1 lead over the San Jose Sharks in the opening round of the playoffs. Peter DeBoer was behind the other bench, and the Sharks won Games 5 and 6 to force a Game 7. The Knights got off to a great start in Game 7, and we all know the rest of that nightmare.
But this is not last year.
The Knights are different, the opponent is different, the situation is different and the rules are different.
Plus, the Knights have a chance to avoid the comparisons altogether.
A win sends Vegas to its second Western Conference Final in three years, which is pretty remarkable when you stop to think about it, even if Vegas has higher ambitions.
A loss forces a Game 7, at which point all bets are off and it’s anyone’s game (even though Vegas would have last change).
That hasn’t necessarily mattered in this series, though, as both of Vancouver’s wins came in Vegas “home” games.
The Knights were dominant the other night in Game 5, but they faced a red-hot goaltender in Thatcher Demko, who stopped 43 of 44 shots. The only shot that beat him was the finishing touch on an impeccable play by Shea Theodore.
Shea Theoscore at his finest pic.twitter.com/ClkEB5IsAl— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) September 2, 2020
But Demko helped his team hang in there long enough to capitalize on a few Vegas mistakes and eventually hold on to a one-goal lead in the third period.
He’ll be in net once again tonight, so Vegas will need to test him early and often.
Robin Lehner will be between the pipes for Vegas once again, and he’ll likely backstop the same lineup as he did in Game 5.
Speaking of Game 5, it was the first time this postseason that the Knights scored first and did not win (8-1). When giving up the first goal, Vegas has gone 2-2 in the postseason and 1-2 since the start of the actual playoffs, which gives some added importance to Vegas getting off to a strong start in tonight’s game.
The other night, Vegas held Vancouver without a shot through the first half of the first and second periods. In Game 2 (Vancouver’s other win), by contrast, the Canucks scored less than 90 seconds into the game and never looked back.
It’s always important to put forth a 60-minute effort, but the Knights need to come out of the gate flying, and discipline needs to be a top concern. The Canucks’ power play is capable of taking over a game, which is not something Vegas can afford.
It’s playoff hockey, so anything can happen. If the Knights play the way they did the other night but play with a greater sense of urgency (particularly early on) and clean up unnecessary mistakes in their game, however, they’ll be in a good spot to wrap up the series. Just don’t underestimate the will or talent of this young Canucks roster.
Join us in the comments section tonight as Vegas attempts to advance to the third round and take one step closer to achieving the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup.
Max Pacioretty — William Karlsson — Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault — Paul Stastny — Reilly Smith
Nick Cousins — Nicolas Roy — Alex Tuch
William Carrier — Chandler Stephenson — Ryan Reaves
Brayden McNabb — Nate Schmidt
Alec Martinez — Theodore
Nick Holden — Zach Whitecloud
Tanner Pearson — Bo Horvat — Tyler Toffoli
J.T. Miller — Elias Pettersson — Brock Boeser
Antoine Roussel — Adam Gaudette — Brandon Sutter
Tyler Motte — Jay Beagle — Jake Virtanen
Alexander Edler — Troy Stecher
Christopher Tanev — Quinn Hughes
Oscar Fantenberg — Tyler Myers