Golden Knights go 0-for-4 on power play, lose composure late in 4-1 loss to Oilers
For the second time in four games, the Edmonton Oilers bounced back from a Vegas win with a dominant showing to even the best-of-seven second-round series. The Vegas Golden Knights were overwhelmed from the start Wednesday night at Rogers Place and ultimately fell 4-1 in yet another lopsided battle between the two Pacific Division rivals.
The series is now tied 2-2.
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were held to three points, and the Edmonton power play finished the game 1-for-7, but it wasn't enough for the Golden Knights to take control of the series. A slow start led to a three-goal deficit, and Vegas went 0-for-3 on the power play in the second period.
Tensions boiled over late in the third, highlighted by a double-handed slash by Alex Pietrangelo on Draisaitl.
It put the finishing touches on a Vegas performance that wasn't nearly good enough, and frustration got to the Golden Knights by the end of the night.
Adin Hill finished with 29 saves on 33 shots for an .879 save percentage in his first postseason start; Stuart Skinner turned away 25 of 26 for a .962 save percentage.
The opening frame was a disaster for the Golden Knights, especially for those named Shea Theodore.
His careless stickhandling in the defensive end led directly to Edmonton's first goal, and he later took two penalties, one of which resulted in the Oilers' sixth power-play strike of the series.
But it was Vegas that got the first taste of power-play action of the game, as Ryan McLeod tripped Michael Amadio just 24 seconds into the contest. The Golden Knights had some good looks but were unable to capitalize, with Skinner coming through with some big stops.
Vegas then took two undisciplined penalties in the first 7:29 of the frame.
The first came at 4:04, but the Golden Knights' new-look penalty kill, which was noticeably more aggressive, came up with its best kill of the series to hold Edmonton off the board.
However, it took less than a minute for the Oilers to open the scoring for the fourth time this series.
Theodore fumbled the puck in the defensive end, and Edmonton pounced on the turnover. Nick Bjugstad collected the loose puck behind the net and beat Hill to the far post on the wraparound at 6:46.
The Oilers doubled that lead less than a minute later after Theodore took his second minor penalty for slashing.
Evan Bouchard scored his second power-play goal of the series just nine seconds into the man-advantage to give the Oilers a 2-0 lead.
Mattias Ekholm made it 3-0 at 13:30 of the first. The goal came right after Vegas had its best chance of the game on a Mark Stone bid in the crease that was shut down by Skinner. Stone was cross-checked from behind immediately following his stuff attempt, which caused him to be late getting back on Edmonton's counterattack.
That proved costly, as Stone was late on the backcheck, leading to Ekholm being wide open for the slapshot goal.
It was a completely dominant opening 20 minutes for the Oilers.
Edmonton led 18-5 in Corsi, 10-2 in shots, 11-2 in scoring chances and 5-1 in high-danger chances while garnering 82.07 percent of the expected goal share at 5-on-5. Vegas managed just six shots on goal, only two of which came at 5-on-5.
The Golden Knights continued to struggle with the Oilers' physicality, which led to another undisciplined stick penalty. But the Golden Knights' penalty kill came through for the second time in the first 25 minutes of the game to keep the deficit at three.
Vegas was outshot 9-1 to start the period before getting its second power play of the night.
Once again, the Golden Knights had solid scoring chances, but Skinner was there to deny Vegas' attempts. He made a particularly big save on Chandler Stephenson's one-timer in front and was in good position on a Jack Eichel one-timer from the right circle.
The Golden Knights went right back to the power play when Skinner was called for playing the puck outside the trapezoid. It was a key moment and a prime opportunity for the Golden Knights to change the course of the game.
They did not.
Jonathan Marchessault had a few promising chances before Pietrangelo hit the post, but Vegas was unable to solve Skinner before play returned to 5-on-5.
The Oilers made Vegas pay further, as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored his first goal of the playoffs to make it 4-0 with 5:15 remaining in the second period.
It was a relentless shift by the Oilers, who kept it in at the blue line and continued to cycle until McDavid caught Ivan Barbashev wandering and then set up Nugent-Hopkins in the slot.
The Oilers took their third penalty of the frame when Vincent Desharnais cleared the puck over the glass, setting up a must-score situation for the Golden Knights' power play.
But once again, the Golden Knights were unable to make anything happen.
The Golden Knights wasted a series of glorious chances with three consecutive power plays in the middle frame. With just 15 shots and one high-danger chance at 5-on-5 on the night, the Golden Knights found themselves trailing by four after two periods.
Vegas ended Skinner's shutout bid when Nicolas Roy skated through contact and roofed a chip shot over the Edmonton netminder's shoulder, making it 4-1 just under six minutes into the final frame.
It was Roy's first goal of the playoffs and third point of the series, and the strong individual effort – which involved taking a cross-check from Draisaitl and getting back to his feet while protecting the puck – gave the Golden Knights life.
The two players who were called for penalties earlier in the game – William Carrier and Theodore – assisted on the play; it marked Carrier's first point of the playoffs.
The Golden Knights began to push following the goal, but Skinner came up with key stops to prevent Vegas from cutting the deficit further. The Golden Knights then took another undisciplined penalty when Keegan Kolesar elbowed Desharnais behind the play in the offensive zone, giving the Oilers a power play with 9:18 to go. More importantly, it interrupted Vegas' rhythm as the Golden Knights tried to mount a comeback.
Vegas killed off the power play, but it took two minutes away from a potential rally. Stephenson and Kailer Yamamoto then got 10-minute misconducts, and the Golden Knights took another penalty for too many men with 5:47 to go. Hill made a few strong saves on the ensuing power play, but it was overshadowed by the final few minutes of regulation.
The Golden Knights pulled the goalie and tried to make it a two-goal game; from there, the game truly unraveled.
After Draisaitl missed the empty net, Pietrangelo skated over and delivered a late two-handed slash to his wrist. It resulted in a five-minute major and game misconduct, but it could lead to a suspension if the league decides to review it.
Brett Howden made contact with Skinner in the crease, and Nicolas Hague and Darnell Nurse dropped the gloves in a spirited scrap in the final minute of the third period; notably, Nurse got an instigator on the play.
Getting an instigator in the final five minutes of regulation results in an automatic one-game suspension, which could keep Nurse out of the lineup on Friday; however, the league can review this and lift that suspension.
Much like they did in Game 2, the Oilers rebounded in commanding fashion to reset the series.
There were a lot of issues with Vegas' game, including discipline.
But the Golden Knights had an opportunity – three, in fact – to bail themselves out and cover up all their previous mistakes and shortcomings. However, Vegas came up short on three consecutive – including two back-to-back – power plays in the second period. Perhaps more than anything, that is what cost Vegas in Game 4.
The Golden Knights may not have gone on to win this game had they scored, but they never really competed because of the power play.
Discipline definitely was an issue, though.
The Golden Knights took three stick penalties in the first two periods and gave the Oilers' power play more chances through 23 minutes than they did in all of Game 3. Kolesar then took another undisciplined penalty while Vegas started to fight back in the third period. The Golden Knights got called for too many men as a last hurrah (or so it seemed).
From there, Vegas' night was a complete disaster, as the Golden Knights lost their composure.
Howden made unnecessary contact with Skinner in the final minutes, but it was Pietrangelo – a veteran leader with a Stanley Cup ring – who lost his cool and committed a suspension-worthy offense. He may not get suspended because of his clean record and because Draisaitl did not appear injured, but it was blatant and unnecessary.
Pietrangelo has been the recipient of countless cheap shots throughout the series, particularly from Evander Kane, but those do not excuse his dangerous actions in Game 4. His decision could really put the series in jeopardy for Vegas if he is suspended for one or more games.
The only positive takeaway from Game 4 was the penalty kill, which looked drastically improved thanks to adjustments made by the coaching staff between games. It was more aggressive, putting more pressure especially on McDavid and Draisaitl, which proved to be effective.
But somehow, going 6-for-7 on the penalty kill wasn't enough.
Edmonton was in full control in the opening frame, but even at 3-0, Vegas couldn't execute when it mattered most, finishing the night 0-for-4 on the power play.
Vegas had just two high-danger chances through the first two periods, only one of which came at 5-on-5. They generated three in the third period, including on Roy's goal, but it was too little, too late.
The Oilers were the much better team at 5-on-5 and made the most of their opportunities. The same cannot be said of Vegas.
The Golden Knights will look to regroup ahead of Game 5 on Friday night; it will be interesting to see if Vegas will have its No. 1 defenseman in the lineup for the pivotal matchup.