Oilers dominate early, score four on special teams to beat Golden Knights 5-1, even series at 1-1
The Vegas Golden Knights were completely outplayed in a lopsided 5-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers Saturday afternoon at T-Mobile Arena.
Edmonton scored four times in the first period and led 5-0 after 40 minutes to take Game 2 of the best-of-seven second-round matchup.
The Golden Knights yielded four goals on special teams, including three on the power play and one shorthanded, and Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl combined for four tallies.
The series is now tied at 1-1.
Laurent Brossoit made 27 saves on 32 shots for a save percentage of .844 through two periods before being replaced by Adin Hill in the third; Hill stopped all four of the Oilers' shots in the final frame in his first game action in months.
Oilers netminder Stuart Skinner bounced back from his Game 1 showing and came away with 30 saves on 31 shots for a .968 save percentage.
A disastrous opening 20 minutes put the Golden Knights in a massive 4-0 hole; the Oilers made sure Vegas couldn't climb out of it.
For the second straight game, Draisaitl gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead with an early power-play strike; this one came just 2:21 into the contest.
Evan Bouchard scored another one less than five minutes later.
The Golden Knights' penalty kill actually defended well, and Brossoit made a series of key saves. However, the Oilers were relentless, and Vegas didn't have an answer.
The special teams nightmare continued when McDavid scored shorthanded 4:10 later, giving Edmonton a three-goal lead.
Draisaitl then scored his second of the game – and sixth of the series – with under four minutes remaining in the opening period to make it 4-0.
Brossoit had no chance on the play after being knocked over by Zach Hyman; Bruce Cassidy threw a hail mary and challenged for goaltender interference, but it was clear that Nicolas Hague was responsible for the contact after pushing Hyman into his own netminder.
The unsuccessful challenge gave the Oilers another power play, but the Vegas penalty kill finally came through to stop the bleeding.
In the first period, Edmonton did more than just score four goals; the Oilers dominated Vegas in almost every facet of the game. Notably, Edmonton outshot Vegas 19-4, and the Golden Knights were never able to get anything going.
"They were a lot better than us," Cassidy said after the game. "They were ready to play; we weren't, for whatever reason. Falls on the coach to prepare your team to play, so I didn't do a good enough job there. They were just much better than us. Won their races, won their battles, converted an early power play again and kept going from there, and we didn't have the pushback necessary. We overcame it the other night and got to our game in a hurry; tonight we never found that."
The Oilers continued to control the pace in the second period, and McDavid added his second of the contest on the club's fifth power play of the game, giving the Oilers three goals on the man-advantage in the first 32 minutes of action.
This goal was solely on Brossoit, who failed to cover the post.
That proved to be the Oilers' final goal of the game, but the damage was already done.
In the second period, Vegas led 13-12 in shots and was able to generate some mild pressure in the offensive zone, but Skinner stepped up and made timely saves when he needed to. He stopped Chandler Stephenson on a breakaway and got some assistance from the post when Brayden McNabb hit iron on one of Vegas' few odd-man rushes.
A fight and a scrum broke out late in the frame, resulting in a trio of concurrent penalties; however, Evander Kane was assessed an additional minor for roughing as well as a misconduct for delivering several blows to Keegan Kolesar's midsection while he was lying on the ice.
Vegas was unable to convert on the ensuing power play.
Cassidy said the team's response to that altercation was the most disappointing part of the game for him as a coach.
"They were more competitive, but we got sort of 'out-teammated' for lack of a better term," he said. "That's disappointing; that should never happen to the Vegas Golden Knights."
Through two periods, the Oilers had challenged the Golden Knights in all three zones and won almost all of the battles to take a 5-0 lead into the second intermission.
Hill made his playoff debut to start the third. The move wasn't an indictment on Brossoit, who was not responsible for how Game 2 unraveled, but rather an opportunity to get Hill some playing time for the first time in several months.
The third period was Vegas' best of the game, but it was too little and way too late.
The Golden Knights found twine early, as Ivan Barbashev scored his third goal of the series, taking a swing and knocking Mark Stone's backhand out of the air and into the net 96 seconds into the frame.
The Golden Knights got a power play eight minutes into the third, but Jonathan Marchessault – still searching for his first goal of the playoffs – was robbed by Skinner on Vegas' best chance.
Jack Eichel also hit the crossbar earlier in the man-advantage; the Golden Knights were unable to cut the deficit.
Vegas finished the game 0-for-3 on the power play; Edmonton went 3-for-6.
In the end, the Golden Knights led 14-4 in shots and 25-8 in shot attempts in the third period. However, the Oilers were so far ahead that it didn't matter.
There were additional fights and skirmishes throughout the rest of the period, including a continuation of the Kolesar-Kane battle that resulted in a misconduct for Kolesar; that could continue to play out as the series progresses. But the Golden Knights were never able to get back in the game and ultimately fell 5-1.
The Oilers controlled Game 2.
Edmonton was able to get to the middle of the ice, had no trouble with zone entries, won battles and dictated special teams to take Vegas out of it early. The Oilers were the hungrier team and the better team.
The dynamic duo of Draisaitl and McDavid proved to be too much to handle, and Vegas was blown out in the special-teams battle. The Golden Knights couldn't get to their game until it was far too late.
"If you're gonna beat a good team that's attack-oriented, the highest-scoring team in the league, you need to have the puck," Cassidy said. "You can't just hope you defend the hell out of them all night; that's a tough ask. That's where I think our problem was. They got to their races and battles, especially in the first period; they won them all, and that's a tough way to play. ... We needed the puck more."
Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft's adjustments between Games 1 and 2 were wildly effective, and the Oilers bounced back in a big way, delivering a stellar effort on the road to even things up at 1-1.
Brossoit may have given up five goals, but he actually had a relatively solid performance. He made a number of key saves, including a pad stop on Draisaitl's one-timer in the slot and a clutch save on an Edmonton 2-on-1 on the power play.
One goal was entirely on him; arguably, the other four were not.
- Draisaitl's first came off a rebound near the crease; Alex Pietrangelo left Draisaitl unattended, and he lifted the puck over the diving Brossoit. Brossoit gave up the rebound and didn't get over, but Draisaitl can't be left alone at the side of the net. It also came on the power play.
- Brossoit was screened on Bouchard's slap shot following several failed clearing attempts by the Vegas penalty kill.
- McDavid scored on a shorthanded breakaway on an outstanding individual effort. That proved to be a major turning point in the game, and while a save would have been huge, it was a McDavid breakaway that only happened because Shea Theodore was careless at the blue line and turned the puck over.
- Draisaitl's second was scored when Brossoit was taken out of the play.
The McDavid power-play goal in the second period was, without a doubt, a terrible goal. But Brossoit otherwise played well enough to help the Golden Knights compete. He gave up five goals, but he did not lose this game for the Golden Knights.
In the first period alone, which is when this game was won, Brossoit faced 19 shots and 12 high-danger chances. On the night, he faced 20 high-danger chances in 40 minutes. He prevented it from being a 10-0 game.
The Golden Knights, as a team, were overmatched, and the margin for error is slim.
In Wednesday's game, the Golden Knights were the much better team, but it was a one-goal game and came down to the wire. If Vegas hadn't made that late stand at the blue line, Edmonton may have forced overtime, and the Oilers were one shot away from resetting the score.
On Saturday, however, it was all Oilers, and Edmonton's early pressure forced the Golden Knights to take penalties, which led to the only goals the Oilers needed.
Vegas didn't capitalize on its power plays and gave Edmonton's unstoppable man-advantage six chances. At 5-on-5, the scoring was 1-1.
In Game 1, the Golden Knights responded to both of Edmonton's power-play goals and even scored one of their own. That didn't happen in Game 2; as a result, the Oilers ran away with the momentum and the game.
The Golden Knights will have to address the issues that Edmonton exposed in Saturday's loss as they regroup ahead of Game 3, which is set for Monday night in Edmonton. Needless to say, the Golden Knights have to do everything they can to play as much of this series at 5-on-5 as possible.