Game 3 Preview: Golden Knights must rebound vs. Oilers as series shifts to Edmonton
The Vegas Golden Knights are coming off a particularly rough outing in Game 2 against the Edmonton Oilers but will look to bounce back tonight as the series shifts to Edmonton for Games 3 and 4.
The Golden Knights surrendered four goals in the opening frame Saturday night and found themselves trailing 5-0 after two periods; the final score was 5-1, evening the series at 1-1.
Special teams ended up being the deciding factor in the matchup, as the Oilers scored three power-play goals as well as a shorthanded goal. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl combined for four goals, and the Golden Knights never really got anything going offensively.
Vegas was a strong road team all season, going 26-7-8, and will look for more of that success tonight in Alberta. The Golden Knights won both road contests in their first-round series against Winnipeg. While this is a very different matchup, getting one of the next two is essential.
The Golden Knights have an all-time record of 9-3 in Game 3 matchups.
Keys to the game
This is pretty straightforward. The Golden Knights cannot afford to take any undisciplined penalties; truthfully, Vegas can't afford to take any penalties at all. But the undisciplined ones or unnecessary ones – especially early – will cost them dearly. The Golden Knights took two penalties in the first 5:40 of Game 2, and Edmonton capitalized on both. Vegas had multiple chances to clear on the second penalty kill but was unable to do so; if the Golden Knights are going to take penalties, they can't fail to clear the puck even once or it will end up in the back of their net. Edmonton has five power-play goals and six special-teams goals in two games. Vegas has to do something to slow down their power play, which is clicking at a ridiculous 56 percent rate; the easiest way to do it is to stay out of the box. Even when the Golden Knights' penalty kill plays well, the Oilers still make it happen. Vegas has to play the majority of this game at 5-on-5.
Fight for momentum
The Oilers scored two power-play goals in Game 1; Vegas responded less than a minute later on both occasions, as Ivan Barbashev erased that shift in momentum to keep Vegas in the game. Edmonton is going to score goals; there's no getting around that. But the Golden Knights have to find a way to weather the storm and take back some of that momentum. That's especially true on the road.
Stick to the game plan
At times throughout Game 2, the Golden Knights got into a track meet with the Oilers, sharing back-and-forth chances at a high pace. Considering the Oilers' speed and skill, this is something Vegas must avoid.
The Golden Knights also have to get back to the forecheck that worked for them against Winnipeg and in Game 1. They can't take too many chances, but getting the puck deep and winning board battles will allow the Golden Knights to take advantage of their depth and put more pressure on the Oilers. Also, forcing the Oilers to retrieve the puck and go 200 feet could eventually start to wear them down later in the series, which is another way in which Vegas can utilize its depth.
The Golden Knights had just four shots on goal in the first period of Game 2; that's not going to work against an offensive juggernaut. Stuart Skinner made some timely saves for his club in his best game of the postseason, but he wasn't tested until the game was already out of reach; that can't happen. Laurent Brossoit did not have a great game but did not get much help from his teammates; he needs to be better, but the Golden Knights need to do a lot more to help him out around the crease and get the puck down the ice. The Vegas blue line has underperformed in this series; it's time for that to change.
Needless to say, it would go a long way if Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith could get involved offensively. They've had their chances, especially Marchessault, but have yet to score in the postseason. They need to start producing.
Ivan Barbashev – Jack Eichel – Jonathan Marchessault
Reilly Smith – William Karlsson – Michael Amadio
Brett Howden – Chandler Stephenson – Mark Stone
William Carrier – Nicolas Roy – Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez – Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb – Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague – Zach Whitecloud
Leon Draisaitl – Connor McDavid – Evander Kane
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Nick Bjugstad – Zach Hyman
Warren Foegele – Ryan McLeod – Derek Ryan
Klim Kostin – Kailer Yamamoto
Darnell Nurse – Cody Ceci
Mattias Ekholm – Evan Bouchard
Brett Kulak – Vincent Desharnais
How to watch
Game 3: Golden Knights vs. Oilers
When: 5:30 p.m. PT
Where: Rogers Place – Edmonton, AB
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM