Game 4 Preview: Golden Knights and Oilers vie for control in competitive series
The Vegas Golden Knights and Edmonton Oilers have exchanged wins through three games of their best-of-seven second-round series. The Golden Knights pulled off a narrow 6-4 win in Game 1 before falling 5-1 in Game 2; however, Vegas turned around and produced a 5-1 win of its own in Game 3, giving the Golden Knights a 2-1 series lead heading into tonight's Game 4 contest.
Will tonight be another case of a team bouncing back from a loss, or will it mark the first time a team wins two straight? It's a significant game for both clubs, but the Oilers will do everything they can to avoid falling into a 3-1 hole.
No matter what, the Golden Knights have to remain vigilant.
They produced one of their most complete efforts of the season in Game 3 but need to be ready for Edmonton's adjustments and pushback. The Oilers will be hungry and will do what they can to make Vegas pay for mistakes, whether that's failed clears, turnovers in the neutral zone or undisciplined penalties.
The Golden Knights are 8-4 all-time in Game 4 matchups and will look to take a 3-1 series lead tonight at Rogers Place.
There has yet to be a game where both teams have been at their best, but tonight's matchup could be the one.
Keys to the game
In Game 1, three of Edmonton's four goals came within 3:56 of an intermission; the first gave Edmonton a 1-0 lead just under four minutes into the game, while the other two came at 19:49 (3-2 VGK) of the first period and 1:35 (3-3) of the third.
The Golden Knights responded to the third-period equalizer and grabbed a two-goal lead just 1:51 later, but Vegas has struggled at the beginning and end of periods throughout the series.
In Game 2, the Oilers scored 2:21 into the first period on a power-play goal by Leon Draisaitl. In Game 3, Warren Foegele scored 2:45 into the contest.
The Oilers have grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first four minutes of all three games in this series, though Vegas has managed to answer quickly and come away victorious in two of those wins.
That being said, the Golden Knights could benefit from tightening things up at the beginning and end of periods to withstand Edmonton's surges.
Despite the early power-play goal against in Game 1, the Golden Knights held the Oilers to three shots through the first 18:40 of the first period and gave up just two shots in the final six minutes of regulation when Edmonton was desperate to even things up. The defensive stand in the final few minutes of the third period was impressive, as the Golden Knights recorded four takeaways and forced Edmonton to commit three giveaways (two by McDavid) in the final 5:50.
In Game 3, the Golden Knights held the Oilers to seven shots in the opening frame. In Game 2, the only loss of the series for Vegas, Edmonton had 19 shots in the first period.
The first period has been significant in this series. In fact, the team with the lead after 20 minutes has gone on to win all three games. Two of those games were 5-1 contests, but it still shows the importance of the opening frame. It will be particularly key tonight on the road against an Oilers team that will be eager to fight back and even the series for the second time.
Stay the course
The Golden Knights had a strong forecheck in Game 3, and it helped them control the majority of the game. Vegas got the puck behind the Edmonton defensemen and won puck battles along the wall. They were extremely effective from behind the goal line and around the crease, and they were relentless throughout the contest, even with a four-goal lead in the third period. That's something the Golden Knights need to stick to; having to retrieve the puck and go 200 feet every time is tiring for the Oilers, and Edmonton got frustrated throughout Monday's game, which led to power plays for Vegas. The Golden Knights also played a much better game around Adin Hill, helping him clear pucks and keeping the Oilers to the perimeter. That's something Laurent Brossoit did not have in Game 2, but it'll be important tonight as the Oilers look to get back to the inside of the ice the way they did in Game 2.
Not much has to be said about the importance of discipline. The Golden Knights gave up five power-play goals in the first two games and zero in Game 3. The Oilers were held without a power play until the score was 5-1, and it was a shortened power play at that. The first and only two-minute power play of the game for Edmonton came in the final 7:06 of the third period, and the Golden Knights killed it off despite Edmonton generating chances. Keeping the game at 5-on-5 is the most important thing for the Golden Knights tonight and in this series. Period.
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 4: Golden Knights vs. Oilers
When: 7 p.m. PT
Where: Rogers Place – Edmonton, AB
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM