Game 5 Preview: Golden Knights look to take third series lead vs. Oilers without Pietrangelo
The Vegas Golden Knights and Edmonton Oilers will return to T-Mobile Arena tonight for Game 5 of their best-of-seven second-round matchup that has been a seesaw series thus far.
The Golden Knights have jumped out to 1-0 and 2-1 series leads only to be overshadowed by the Oilers in the even-numbered games, losing by at least three goals in both Games 2 and 4.
The last three games of the series have been 5-1, 5-1 and 4-1.
Tonight's pivotal Game 5 matchup could determine the series, and both teams will be without a key defenseman, though for very different reasons.
Alex Pietrangelo was suspended one game for his vicious slash on Leon Draisaitl in the third period of Game 5, while Darnell Nurse received an automatic one-game suspension – upheld by the NHL – for receiving an instigator penalty in the final five minutes of the third period of the same game.
It looks as though Michael Amadio will not be in the lineup tonight, as he skated with the extras during morning skate. Teddy Blueger, who has yet to play a game this postseason, could be entering the lineup in his stead. Nicolas Roy likely will move up to the second line to play with the Misfits to make this work. William Karlsson was not present at today's morning skate, but that's because his son was born early this morning; he is expected to play tonight.
Keys to the game
The Golden Knights have given up the first goal in all four games of the series. It has only prevented them from winning two of four games, but it has forced them to play from behind in every matchup. Game 4 was no exception. The Golden Knights got off to a particularly slow start, yielding three goals in the first period and managing just six shots on goal in the opening frame. Even if the Golden Knights don't score first, they must be better in the opening 20 minutes. The team with a lead after the first period has gone on to win all four games, and the last three haven't been close.
Jack Eichel said establishing Vegas' game early is important, especially in the first 10 minutes of the game. "We didn't come out prepared to play in Game 4, and you saw what happened there. We just need to be more decisive ... We understand the way we have to play for us to be successful, so it's important to try to establish that early."
In the two games in which the Golden Knights surrendered the first goal but won, they were able to respond quickly to Oilers goals. In Game 1, it was Ivan Barbashev (twice); in Game 3, it was Jonathan Marchessault. Vegas has answered within two minutes on three occasions during this series, and if the Oilers jump ahead once again tonight, coming up with an answer will be imperative for the Golden Knights to prevent Edmonton from running away with it.
Manage without Petro
The Golden Knights will be without their No. 1 defenseman in Game 5, which will make it that much more difficult to contain Connor McDavid and Draisaitl. The two have been held to a total of three points over the last two games; they comebined for 11 in Games 1 and 2, where Edmonton score a total of nine goals. The two will be particularly motivated tonight after Pietrangelo's actions in Game 4. The Oilers have other offensive weapons, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scoring in Game 4 could make him more of a threat. But overall, the Golden Knights will need to defend as a team. When they've had success, it has been a team-wide effort, and that's exactly what they need tonight.
Pietrangelo lost his cool in Game 4, did something inexcusable and is now missing the most important game of the season. The Golden Knights have to learn from that and cannot take undisciplined penaltites. There were a few discrepancies in officiating early in Game 4, but officiating is never going to be perfect. The Golden Knights can only control what they can control, but taking careless stick penalties, retaliating or losing their focus will be costly. Vegas does not want to go into Edmonton for an elimination game, so tonight's effort has to be vigilant for 60 minutes. There can't be any passengers; everyone has to be active and everyone has to contribute in order for the Golden Knights to be successful.
On the back end, Nicolas Hague will take Pietrangelo's place on the top pairing to skate with Alec Martinez; the two played 119:03 together during the regular season and will need to be at their best against a dynamic Oilers offense. Ben Hutton will draw into the lineup and will skate on the third pair with Zach Whitecloud. Hutton is expected to be on the second power play, with Shea Theodore taking over duties on the top unit. Theodore had one of his worst efforts in Game 4, but he will need to be a No. 1 defenseman tonight.
As for the Oilers, Brett Kulak will move up to play with Cody Ceci, while Philip Broberg and Vincent Desharnais will make up the third pair. Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard are sure to see elevated minutes.
Time to power up
The referees lost control of the game down the stretch in Game 4, so it's very possible Game 5 could be called tight to start. That doesn't favor the Golden Knights, though Vegas' penalty kill went 6-for-7 the other night and was able to keep Edmonton's power play in check. No matter what, the Golden Knights need more from their power play. They have gone 0-for-11 over the last three games, and a series of three consecutive failed opportunities in the second period of Game 4 was a major reason why the Golden Knights were unable to compete. That has to change tonight. The Golden Knights' power play looked strong; they generated 10 shots on goal and had legitimate chances to score. Stuart Skinner played very well, but the Golden Knights have to find a way to execute. They've been able to find ways to win all year; tonight, they need to find ways to capitalize on these opportunities if they want to continue to fight for a chance to move on to the next round of the playoffs.
Ivan Barbashev – Jack Eichel – Jonathan Marchessault
Reilly Smith – William Karlsson – Nicolas Roy
Brett Howden – Chandler Stephenson – Mark Stone
William Carrier – Teddy Blueger – Keegan Kolesar
Alec Martinez – Nicolas Hague
Brayden McNabb – Shea Theodore
Ben Hutton – Zach Whitecloud
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Zach Hyman
Evander Kane – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Warren Foegele – Ryan McLeod – Derek Ryan
Klim Kostin – Nick Bjugstad – Mattias Janmark
Cody Ceci – Brett Kulak
Mattias Ekholm – Evan Bouchard
Philip Broberg – Vincent Desharnais
How to watch
Game 5: Golden Knights vs. Oilers
When: 7 p.m. PT
Where: T-Mobile Arena – Las Vegas, NV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM