Game 2 Preview: Golden Knights look to rediscover game, up the intensity against Jets

Game 2 Preview: Golden Knights look to rediscover game, up the intensity against Jets

The Vegas Golden Knights need to be better in just about every way when they take on the Winnipeg Jets in Game 2 of the first-round matchup tonight at T-Mobile Arena.

The Golden Knights are coming off an uninspired 5-1 loss and now trail the best-of-seven series 1-0.

Jets dominate on the road in 5-1 win against Golden Knights to take 1-0 series lead
The Vegas Golden Knights were completely outplayed in a lopsided 5-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets in Game 1 of the first-round series Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena. Winnipeg scored twice in 62 seconds early in the second period and had all the momentum until Vegas finally broke through late

Vegas scored just one goal and mustered a meager 17 shots on goal in a lopsided defeat. The Golden Knights joined the other three home teams in the Western Conference, all of whom fell in Game 1. Two of those series are now tied at 1-1; the Golden Knights will look to follow suit.

Losing the first game is not new territory for the Golden Knights. Vegas is now .500 in Game 1 of a series (6-6), and this is the second time Vegas has lost Game 1 against the Jets. Last time around, the Golden Knights went on to win four straight en route to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in their staggering inaugural campaign.

Winning four in a row seems like a lofty and unreasonable goal, but it goes to show that this far from over.

Vegas also went on to defeat Minnesota and Colorado in 2021 after falling behind 1-0 in both series.

This is a new team with a new coach in a new situation, however, so previous statistics and records only go so far. The Golden Knights are hopeful they can write off Game 1 in similar fashion, as Tuesday's performance fell somewhere between mediocre and abysmal.

The Golden Knights got away from their game, were shut down by a stifling-yet-not-unbeatable defense, failed to test one of the best goalies in the game and played without urgency despite it being the most important game of the season.

The Jets played a smart and effective game; the Golden Knights will look to do the same tonight.

For that to happen, the Golden Knights need to break through Winnipeg's neutral-zone coverage, open things up and generate offense. Vegas is an excellent transition team, and the Golden Knights converted on one of the few transition chances they had all night, but they have to create more.

As poorly as the Golden Knights played, somehow Vegas remained in the game until the very end.

Instead of taking advantage, however, the Golden Knights wasted a late power play with the game on the line and generated just two shots on goal in the third period. That's not going to work against any team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and certainly not against Connor Hellebuyck and the Jets.

The Golden Knights are much better than what they showed in Game 1. Here's what they need to do to right the ship, get back in this series and even things up at 1-1.

Keys to the game

Shoot the puck

First and foremost, Vegas has to get pucks to the net. Seventeen shots in a playoff game is ludicrous, especially at home against a team that Vegas did not lose to during the regular season. Granted, these teams hadn't played in months, but that doesn't change the fact that the Golden Knights recorded more shots on goal in all 82 games this season. Hellebuyck has the ability to steal a game and a series, but the Golden Knights have to test him.

Don't throw away opportunities

The Golden Knights also have to find a way to do something on the power play. The man-advantage has been inconsistent all season, but Vegas saved its worst power play of the year for the third period of Game 1. The first opportunity of the night was not a problem despite being unsuccessful, but the second and third were momentum-killing efforts reminiscent of last season's deflating power play. Mark Stone had a rough game in his first action in three months, and Jack Eichel was essentially a no-show, which doesn't help matters. But the Golden Knights have to do better tonight.

Confidence in the crease

Laurent Brossoit also needs to be better. He was not to blame for the loss, but he wasn't nearly as sharp as he was in 10 starts in the regular season. He gave up four goals on 30 shots, including two second-period goals in 62 seconds that changed the game. He looked shaky early even though he stopped 14 of 14 first-period shots, but there's nothing more demoralizing for a team than giving up a goal that could have been stopped, especially at an untimely point in the game. The Jets are going to give it everything they have; the Golden Knights need Brossoit to rise to the challenge.

Score first

Scoring first would do wonders for the Golden Knights for several reasons. For one thing, the Golden Knights thrived when taking a 1-0 lead in games this season, especially in the final six weeks of the year. That's why we listed it as a key to the series in our first-round preview:

The Golden Knights went 38-5-3 when scoring first this season, good for a win percentage of .826, which trailed only Boston in the NHL rankings. Over the final six weeks of the regular season, Vegas scored first in 17 of 22 games and won 15 of them (15-1-1). In the five games in which Vegas surrendered the opening goal, the Golden Knights won only once.

Vegas' 1-2-2 record when falling behind 1-0 equates to a .200 win percentage, which was the lowest among all playoff teams in that stretch.

In addition to the fact that Vegas has excelled when scoring first, giving Hellebuyck a lead is a dangerous game to play. That makes the race to lighting the lamp a critical factor for the Golden Knights.
Series preview: Golden Knights look to ground Jets in round one
This is a series of redemption for two teams that failed to live up to expectations last year but responded by returning to the second season under new head coaches. The Vegas Golden Knights (94 points) missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last year after a

It's also a key to the game tonight, though by no means is it make-or-break. The Golden Knights had plenty of chances to turn things around in Game 1 but failed to come close. Scoring first could help Vegas move on from Tuesday's nonchalant effort and get back to playing the way they did down the stretch.

Break through the neutral zone

It's imperative that Bruce Cassidy and the Golden Knights make adjustments in order to compensate for Winnipeg's neutral-zone play, which smothered Vegas' offense throughout Game 1. The Golden Knights are a strong transition team but were unable to generate much, especially after the Jets took a 2-0 lead. They can't fall into that trap again.

Play with fire

But most of all, the Golden Knights need to get back to playing Golden Knights hockey. Vegas lacked intensity, urgency, desperation and heart, which is not a recipe for success in the playoffs. Most players need to be better, and the Golden Knights need to be better as a team. Execution isn't always guaranteed, but effort is simply that: effort. The Golden Knights need to put the work in to get better results, and this is a must-win game for the home team.

Projected lineups

Note: Cassidy changed things up during Game 1, reuniting the Misfit Line and putting Chandler Stephenson and Stone with Eichel. However, he is going back to the lines he started with in Game 1.

Golden Knights

Ivan Barbashev – Jack Eichel – Jonathan Marchessault
Reilly Smith – William Karlsson – Phil Kessel
Michael Amadio – Chandler Stephenson – Mark Stone
Brett Howden – Nicolas Roy – Keegan Kolesar

Alec Martinez – Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb – Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague – Zach Whitecloud

Laurent Brossoit
Jonathan Quick


Note: Nikolaj Ehlers is a game-time decision.

Kyle Connor – Pierre-Luc DuBois – Mark Scheifele
Nino Niederreiter – Vladislav Namestnikov – Blake Wheeler
Morgan Barron – Adam Lowry – Mason Appleton
David Gustafsson – Kevin Stenlund – Saku Maenalanen

Josh Morrissey – Dylan DeMelo
Brenden Dillon – Neal Pionk
Dylan Samberg – Nate Schmidt

Connor Hellebuyck
David Rittich

How to watch

Game 2: Golden Knights vs. Jets
When: 7 p.m. PT
Where: T-Mobile Arena – Las Vegas, NV
TV: TBS, AT&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM