Stone leads Golden Knights to 5-2 win over Jets to even series at 1-1
The Vegas Golden Knights rediscovered their game and bounced back in a big way when they defeated the Winnipeg Jets 5-2 in Game 2 Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena.
The best-of-seven first-round series is now tied at 1-1.
That's thanks to a team-wide effort that saw nine players find the scoresheet, five players record multi-point efforts and 16 out of 18 Vegas skaters record at least one shot one game after Vegas managed just 17 total.
It wasn't a complete 60-minute effort, but Vegas eventually found its footing, scoring a combined five goals in the second and third periods. Mark Stone scored two goals and had three points in the third to lift Vegas to the much-needed victory and reset the series.
Connor Hellebuyck was excellent early but was unable to withstand Vegas' unrelenting pressure in the final 40 minutes of play. He finished the game with 34 saves on 39 shots for an .872 save percentage.
Laurent Brossoit, on the other hand, played a crucial role for the Golden Knights, yielding just two goals on 33 shots for a .939 save percentage in his first career playoff win.
The Golden Knights did not get off to a strong start. Vegas entered the game needing to make drastic adjustments following Game 1, but those changes were not reflected in the opening 20 minutes. In fact, it was another dominant effort by Winnipeg, as the Jets led Vegas 17-8 in shots, held a 72 percent Corsi share at 5-on-5 and scored the only goal of the frame.
It was Adam Lowry who opened the scoring on the power play, netting his third of the series at 9:18 to give the Jets a 1-0 lead for the second time in two games.
If not for Brossoit, this game could have been out of hand early, but the Vegas netminder stepped up and stopped 16 of 17 to keep Vegas in the game.
When all was said and done, the Jets had the same number of shots in the first period as Vegas had in all of Game 1. It took Vegas more than half a period to record a single shot on goal at 5-on-5, and, once again, the Golden Knights failed to capitalize on multiple power-play opportunities.
The power play looked better, and Chandler Stephenson came exceptionally close to lighting the lamp, but he was robbed by a stellar glove save by Hellebuyck, who miraculously kept the puck from crossing the goal line.
The Golden Knights finally found their game in the middle frame, scoring two goals and taking their first lead of the series. Bruce Cassidy's line changes seemed to cause a spark, and it was by far the team's best period of the playoffs to that point.
First, William Karlsson scored for the second game in a row after collecting a loose puck and firing it past Hellebuyck.
The Golden Knights continued to push and eventually got rewarded as Jack Eichel deflected a point shot by Alex Pietrangelo for his first career playoff goal.
Eichel's first postseason tally made it a 2-1 game at 10:25, giving the Golden Knights the lead for the first time through 90 minutes of hockey.
But the Jets evened things up at 2-2 when Kevin Stenlund redirected a saucer feed over the shoulder of Brossoit. With just under four minutes remaining in the period, Brayden McNabb lost his footing, which set up the odd-man rush.
However, Vegas outshot Winnipeg 19-10 and managed a 67.5 percent Corsi share at 5-on-5 to even the score at 2-2 and pull even in shots (27-27) through 40 minutes.
The Golden Knights continued to push the pace in the third period and won countless battles in the offensive zone, recording seven of the first nine shots before capitalizing.
Vegas took a 3-2 lead 5:37 into the frame when Stephenson put home a rebound off another Pietrangelo shot. Stone recorded the secondary assist on the play for his first point since Jan. 5.
It was a huge goal by Stephenson, who had gone 17 postseason games without a goal; it proved to be the game-winner.
But the Golden Knights didn't relent and eventually added a critical insurance goal to take their first two-goal lead of the series. It was none other than Stone who came up with the clutch goal for his second point of the period.
Stephenson and Brett Howden – who was moved up to play with Stephenson and Stone early in the second period – recorded the assists on the play, making it a full-line goal and a 4-2 game 13 minutes into the third.
Stone wasn't finished, though. He added his second goal of the game 4:29 later to give Vegas a commanding three-goal lead and secure the 5-2 win with just 2:30 remaining.
Vegas' performance in Game 1 was uncharacteristically uninspired, and the first period of Game 2 was similarly concerning. It took 20 minutes, but the Golden Knights eventually rediscovered their game and were finally able to inject their speed into the game. That opened things up and made the Jets look like a very different team defensively.
It was vintage Golden Knights hockey. Vegas scored two goals in under five minutes in the second and three straight in the third to come away with the critical win, outshooting the Jets 19-10 and 12-6 in the second and third periods, respectively.
The Golden Knights were solid in all three zones and held the Jets' top players to zero points.
The Golden Knights went 0-for-4 on the power play, but they made the most of their other opportunities and scored five goals on one of the best goalies in the NHL to claw their way back into this series.
Brossoit returned to form with a stellar effort, particularly in the first period when it was all Winnipeg. Both Jets goals were scored on deflections, with one coming on an odd-man rush. Plus, Brossoit held Winnipeg off the board for 26:43 between goals, giving his teammates the necessary time to turn things around.
Even so, this game was still 2-2 heading into the third period, and it could have gone either way.
That's what makes Stone's third-period masterclass all the more impressive. In his second game back after missing the final 39 games of the regular season and undergoing his second back surgery in under a year, Stone put the team on his back. He factored into all three of the Golden Knights' third-period goals and reestablished home-ice advantage in what is now a best-of-five series.
The game also marked the return of Stephenson as an X-factor. He took a bad penalty in the third period to negate a Vegas power play, but he made up for it with the game-winning goal and a two-point night. He and Stone continue to have obvious chemistry and combined for nine shots.
Eichel was noticeably better, especially early on. He gave Vegas its first lead of the series at the midway point of the game and was more active on the power play. He still has a lot more to give, but it was a definite improvement over Game 1.
Karlsson had an underrated performance and was excellent once again. Not only did he kick off the scoring, but he finished third on the team in individual scoring chances (six), played a key role defensively and made a number of understated plays to help the Golden Knights come away victorious.
The series will shift to Winnipeg for Games 3 and 4; Game 3 is set for Saturday afternoon.