The Vegas Golden Knights are coming off a dramatic 5-4 double overtime win and will aim for their third straight victory tonight in Game 4 of the best-of-seven first-round series against the Winnipeg Jets.
The Golden Knights are 7-4 all-time in Game 4’s. Vegas is 4-2 in Game 4’s with a 2-1 series lead and 5-3 with any type of series lead.
The Golden Knights held a 4-1 lead in the third period of Saturday’s Game 3 matchup but proceeded to surrender that lead, as the Jets scored three unanswered goals, the fourth of which came with just 22 seconds remaining in regulation.
Winnipeg scored early in the third period to make it a two-goal game, but the Golden Knights eventually played conservatively in the neutral zone rather than trying to regain their three-goal edge. The Jets took advantage of a late power play and then scored the equalizer with the goalie pulled.
It was an impressive comeback encouraged by a raucous home crowd. The game required an extra 23:40 before Michael Amadio ended it with a top-shelf laser from the slot off a forced turnover.
Vegas played very well in the first and second periods and had control over the contest. To their credit, the Jets never quit and continued to chip away at the deficit. But while the Golden Knights were poised in overtime and didn’t surrender many shots – even if the Jets had plenty of offensive zone time – the game should not have reached sudden-death territory.
After blowing the lead, the Golden Knights never seemed rattled but rather focused and calm. That’s in large part due to the veteran and experienced lineup but also a result of overcoming adversity during the regular season.
The Golden Knights had a steady stream of injuries to key players and had to rely on five goaltenders this season, but they still managed to earn the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. This is a team that knows how to win hockey games, and Saturday afternoon was another example of that.
That being said, the Golden Knights do not want a repeat of that third-period collapse. The Golden Knights are resilient and have depth Winnipeg does not, but the Jets will be desperate to even up the series before heading to Vegas for Game 5.
The Golden Knights will do whatever they can to prevent that; this is a key opportunity for Vegas, but it will require a disciplined and structured game plan. Here’s what the Golden Knights need to focus on to get the job done.
Keys to the game
Much like in Game 3, the Golden Knights need to weather the storm and withstand the push from the Jets, especially early on. Scoring first has been a major factor in Vegas’ success this year, especially towards the end of the regular season; though the Golden Knights blew the lead, they were firmly in control and played very well after getting on the board first.
The Golden Knights need to be disciplined; that wasn’t necessarily the issue in Saturday’s game, as the penalty that led to Winnipeg’s third goal was questionable. That being said, the Jets’ power play was effective, and the game changed when Winnipeg scored with just under six minutes remaining.
Vegas needs to continue to apply pressure on the forecheck, take advantage of Winnipeg’s thin blue line, continue to get pucks to the net on the power play and keep its foot on the gas, regardless of the score.
At times, the Golden Knights’ forecheck was surgical in Game 3, and it ended up leading to the game-winning goal. Ivan Barbashev and Brett Howden went in on the forecheck and pressured defenseman Dylan Samberg into making a mistake; Samberg’s rushed pass attempt bounced off Barbashev’s shin pad and landed on the stick of Amadio in the slot. Amadio wasted no time in unleashing the game-winning shot. The Golden Knights had trouble getting through the neutral zone in the first four periods of the series, an issue they seemed to address early in Game 3. It led to a dominant 40-minute stretch, which followed up a dominant third period in Game 2. Vegas relied on its forecheck all season, and it came through in a big way in Game 3. The Golden Knights need to stick to this formula, especially considering Winnipeg will be shorthanded.
The Jets will be without star defenseman Josh Morrissey tonight and for the rest of the series; Morrissey left Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury and was ruled out after the game. Winnipeg played most of the contest with five defensemen, and Neal Pionk played a game-high 41:08. He managed to record assists on all three third-period goals for the Jets, but he was leaned on heavily and needed an IV treatment after the game. Jets coach Rick Bowness said Winnipeg may go with seven defensemen and 11 forwards, which would mean both Logan Stanley and Kyle Capobianco may enter the lineup. Either way, there’s no way to replace what Morrissey brings to the table, so it’ll be a downgrade to Winnipeg’s blue line. The Golden Knights need to take advantage of this, especially since the top-4 will be taxed with heavy minutes. Bowness doesn’t have the luxury of rolling four lines and three pairs the way Bruce Cassidy does; the Golden Knights need to get pucks behind the defensemen and make life difficult, especially coming after such a heartbreaking and exhausting loss.
The Golden Knights scored two goals on the power play in Saturday’s game after going 0-for-7 in the first two games. Jack Eichel scored both, and the Vegas power play looked much improved. However, Vegas had key opportunities at the start of each overtime period and was unable to take advantage. The Jets defended well by keeping the Golden Knights stationary, but Vegas is much more effective when moving the puck around, making quick decisions and getting pucks to the net.
Don’t sit back
The Golden Knights got burned after playing somewhat conservatively in the third period of Saturday’s game. Of course, the Jets deserve credit for pushing hard and fighting all the way back from a three-goal deficit. However, the Golden Knights were content to sit back rather than continue to pepper Connor Hellebuyck. But tonight is a must-win game for the Jets; all the pressure is on Winnipeg, which will be without Nikolaj Ehlers and won’t have its best and most dynamic rearguard. The Golden Knights need to take advantage, particularly considering the Jets will have an extra day of rest before Game 5, which is set for Thursday.
Michael Amadio – Jack Eichel – Jonathan Marchessault
Reilly Smith – William Karlsson – Phil Kessel
Brett Howden – Chandler Stephenson – Mark Stone
Ivan Barbashev – Nicolas Roy – Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez – Alex Pietrangelo
Brayden McNabb – Shea Theodore
Nicolas Hague – Zach Whitecloud
Kyle Connor – Pierre-Luc DuBois – Nino Niederreiter
Vladislav Namestnikov – Mark Scheifele – Blake Wheeler
Morgan Barron – Adam Lowry – Mason Appleton
Axel Jonsson-Fjällby – Kevin Stenlund – Saku Maenalanen
Brenden Dillon – Neal Pionk
Nate Schmidt – Dylan DeMelo
Dylan Samberg – Logan Stanley
How to watch
Game 4: Golden Knights vs. Jets
When: 6:30 p.m. PT
Where: Canada Life Centre – Winnipeg, MB
TV: ESPN, AT&T SportsNet
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM