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Golden Knights 4, Blackhawks 3: Vegas defeats Chicago in Game 5 to advance to second round

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Max Pacioretty and William Karlsson scored two points in the hard-fought win.

Chicago Blackhawks v Vegas Golden Knights - Game Five

The Vegas Golden Knights advanced to the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs after handing the Chicago Blackhawks a 4-3 loss Tuesday night in Edmonton in Game 5 of the best-of-seven series.

The Knights fought back from a two-goal and one-goal deficit, and Alex Tuch ultimately scored the game-winning and series-clinching goal 1:34 into the third period.

Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone and Alec Martinez also scored for Vegas, with three of the four goals coming on rebound opportunities. The Knights also added a power-play tally for the first time in the series.

Shot heat map

Pacioretty had two points, including an assist, and William Karlsson chipped in two helpers as well.

The Knights were the superior team, as had been the case throughout the series, but this time the 4-3 score reflected that. Vegas finished the game with a 57.52 percent Corsi at 5-on-5 and a 60.32 percent shot share.

But the Knights found themselves trailing by two goals in the first period.

Jonathan Toews got the scoring started by jumping on a rebound, beating Nate Schmidt to the puck and getting it past Robin Lehner, who made his fourth start in five games.

Brayden McNabb turned the puck over in his own end instead of getting it up-ice, and the Golden Knights’ defense wasn’t able to recover. That was the fourth 5-on-5 goal against for Schmidt and McNabb in this series, a team-high.

That trend of giveaways for the Schmidt-McNabb pairing would continue throughout the night.

They allowed three high-danger chances at 5-on-5 in the game, and they had three combined giveaways across all strengths. Moving forward, the Golden Knights need Schmidt and McNabb to be a lot more reliable in their own end.

The Blackhawks would get a second goal about eight minutes later as Connor Murphy weaved his way through the offensive zone, spinning to get the puck to Dylan Strome, who set up Alex DeBrincat. It was DeBrincat’s first career postseason goal (not including his empty-netter in Game 4).

It was another goal where the Golden Knights’ defense fell short. Nick Holden and Zach Whitecloud didn’t cover their bases, and Murphy was given free room to operate.

But the Golden Knights would answer before the end of the period as Pacioretty scored on a rebound with just 31 seconds left in the frame:

The puck took an odd bounce off a body in front of the net, and Pacioretty was able to gather it. Crawford was slow to adjust, and Duncan Keith went down without getting in front of Pacioretty. It was Pacioretty’s first goal of the postseason and turned out to be a critical one as it got the Knights on the board, giving Vegas momentum heading into the second period.

The Knights made quick use of that momentum as Vegas knotted things up just 57 seconds into the period when Stone scored, also getting a goal that started out as a rebound:

Vegas needed a big game out of its star players, and the newly-reunited first line delivered.

In 13:52 of 5-on-5 ice time, the top line produced a 71.88 percent Corsi and 93.66 percent expected goal share. Those numbers are insane, but they explain how the trio was able to get it done in Game 5.

Patrick Kane would break the tie just over three minutes later as he was in alone on Lehner. Kane got behind the Vegas defense and received the pass from Drake Caggiula, who collected it off a Schmidt giveaway:

It was another goal from the high-danger area. Could Lehner have made this save? Yes, most likely. But should he have needed to, with his defensemen at the blue line having just coughed up the puck yet again? No.

The Blackhawks would take a penalty, the first of the game, two minutes later. For the first time in the series, the Golden Knights would convert:

A string of Grade-A passes got the puck to Martinez, noted Blackhawks killer, who was able to one-time it past Crawford. The second unit finally broke through to even things up once again.

In the third, Tuch broke the tie with his first goal of the series, giving the Golden Knights their first lead since Game 3:

Tuch stayed with the puck and put his own rebound into the net, which is exactly what the power forward needs to do moving forward.

Tuch later scored again to make it 5-3 after being set up perfectly by Chandler Stephenson, who had a fantastic game. However, the goal was disallowed due to incidental goaltender interference.

Nevertheless, the Knights survived the late push by the Blackhawks and held on for a 4-3 victory.

Vegas made the decision to stick with Lehner over Marc-Andre Fleury in net, and Lehner made several important saves, especially late in the game. However, there’s only so much the goaltender can do when the other team is getting such high-danger chances offensively:

Shot heat map

The defense has to be better, particularly Schmidt and McNabb.

Lehner made 23 saves on 26 shots for an .885 save percentage, and he made 16 saves on 16 shots from the medium- and low-danger areas as he helped Vegas eliminate his former team.

The Knights are the first team to advance to the second round. Their opponent has yet to be determined since teams will be reseeded after each round of this year’s playoffs.

In any case, bring on the lowest seed.