The second period continues to be kind to the Vegas Golden Knights.
For the third game in a row, the Knights won the game in the second period, ultimately coming away with a 4-0 win over the Minnesota Wild in Game 4 Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center.
Nicolas Roy scored two goals, and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all 35 shots he faced as the Knights put a stranglehold on the first-round matchup against Minnesota.
The Knights will have a chance to close out the series Monday night in Vegas.
It was Fleury against Cam Talbot for the fourth straight time, and Max Pacioretty missed his 10th straight game, though there were lineup changes for both clubs.
With Marcus Johansson out with a broken arm, Zach Parise made his series debut, and Kyle Rao was inserted into the Minnesota lineup for Nick Bjugstad.
For the Knights, Nick Holden played his second straight game, this time suiting up for Brayden McNabb. Nicolas Hague was back in the lineup after missing Game 3, and Patrick Brown remained on the fourth line after scoring a goal in Game 3.
Despite taking a penalty 11 seconds into the game, it was the Golden Knights’ best start in four games.
That’s not to say it was a perfect start, as the Knights were getting outshot 9-3 midway through the period.
However, the Knights scored the first goal of the game for the first time this series.
Nicolas Roy gave Vegas a 1-0 lead at 10:37 of the opening frame after making a goal-saving defensive play at one end of the rink and going on to score a goal at the other.
Fleury got caught playing the puck behind the net and turned it over, but Roy stepped in at the last second and broke up a centering feed to Nick Bonino, who was standing in front of a wide-open net, waiting for an easy tap-in.
On the same shift, Roy carried the puck up the ice, completed a short give-and-go exchange with Keegan Kolesar in the neutral zone and sent a laser glove-side over the shoulder of Talbot to give Vegas the 1-0 lead.
It was Roy’s first career postseason goal.
But much like Jonathan Marchessault did in Game 2, the Minnesota Wild responded immediately.
Just 19 seconds after Roy found twine, the Wild beat a screened Fleury with a wrist shot short-side.
Or so it seemed.
For the second game in a row, Pete DeBoer challenged a goal scored by Joel Eriksson Ek, and for the second game in a row, the move paid off for Vegas.
It was a very soft call, but Marcus Foligno’s skate grazed the top of the blue paint, an area of the ice to which the goalie is entitled. Though the minimal contact was initiated by Fleury himself, it was Foligno’s positioning that was considered enough of an impediment to prevent Fleury from playing his position.
Pete Deboer and the Golden Knights challenge Eriksson Ek's goal for goaltender interference.— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) May 23, 2021
During the regular season, he went 1-2 on challenges (0-1 for goalie interference). With this win, he's now 2-0 in the playoffs on challenges. pic.twitter.com/fvp8ha7Bet
It easily could have gone (and often goes) the other way, but the Knights caught a break and had the goal taken off the board.
The Golden Knights took advantage by doubling their lead at 9:08 of the second period when Alex Tuch scored his third goal of the series against his former team. Chandler Stephenson made a touch pass to Tuch, who flew into the offensive zone, went right through the Minnesota defensemen and went backhand-forehand to beat Talbot.
OOOOO YOU JUST GOT ROASTED AND TOASTEDDDDDDD pic.twitter.com/Qa3LheCNUi— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) May 23, 2021
Zach Whitecloud started the play at Vegas’ blue line, getting the secondary assist on the play.
The Wild had been carrying the play in the first half of the second in what remained a one-goal game up until that point, which made Tuch’s goal even more significant.
But Vegas handed Minnesota four minutes of time on the power play a little over two minutes later when Whitecloud caught Parise up high.
Minnesota had one shot on a very early power play in the first period but wasn’t able to generate much. This one, however, resulted in a goal.
For the Knights.
Mark Stone essentially put the game away with a shorthanded breakaway goal. Matt Dumba turned the puck over, Stone got around Ryan Suter at the blue line and took care of the rest, ultimately going backhand-forehand and sliding it under Talbot.
It was the eighth unanswered goal for the Golden Knights in Minnesota and Stone’s third in two games.
Eriksson Ek was in alone on Fleury with seconds remaining in the double-minor and later had a chance in tight in the final minute of the period, but Fleury stopped both chances, preserving the comfortable 3-0 lead through two periods.
The Wild continued to push in the third, ultimately outshooting Vegas 13-4. Minnesota had one particularly juicy chance, but the Golden Knights did their part by protecting the front of the net and ultimately cleared it out of harm’s way.
That was an important aspect of Vegas’ game, as Minnesota scored the majority of its regular-season goals off rebounds or loose pucks around the net.
The Knights were able to sit back with the 3-0 lead, making life very difficult on Minnesota. The Knights took a page out of the Wild’s book and blocked shots, closed off passing lanes, took away the star players’ time and space and smothered Minnesota in Fleury’s end. There were a few non-calls for holding, but for the most part Vegas was simply dominant.
Roy put the game truly out of reach with 1:28 left in the third period when he scored on the empty net from center ice, collecting his second goal of the game and sealing the 4-0 victory.
Once again, the Golden Knights took over the game and never looked back.
The Wild were in control of possession in the third period, holding a 26-4 edge in Corsi at 5-on-5, but the Knights were content to sit back and protect the lead. At all strengths in the third, Minnesota had 29 scoring chances but just 13 shots; Vegas blocked 10.
It was a team effort and the Knights’ closest attempt at a 60-minute effort. Fleury gave up two or fewer goals for the 13th straight game and won his 12th game in his last 13 starts.
Heading into Game 3, the Knights were hoping to possibly take one of the two games in Minnesota despite past results. The fact that they went 2-for-2 and scored nine unanswered goals was certainly unexpected.
DeBoer’s challenges were game-changers in both games, Fleury did his part (as he has all year), and Stone’s goal in the second period of Game 3 seemed to jump-start Vegas’ offense, which had been virtually nonexistent. His shorthanded goal tonight symbolized just how critical Vegas’ dominant penalty kill has been to this team all year.
Vegas now holds a 3-1 series lead thanks to the first two regulation wins in Minnesota in franchise history.
The Knights will look to make it four straight in Game 5 Monday night at T-Mobile Arena.