Golden Knights Analysis
‘Big Time’ Golden Knights Turning Points: The PK, Net Front & Crowd in Game 5 Win
The Vegas Golden Knights stared down the double barrel of the Edmonton Oilers’ power play. Despite scoring two of their own on the man advantage, the game hung in the balance as the Oilers had a five-minute major at the end of the second and for the first 4:37 of the third period.
Five minutes to score as many as they could. For a power play that is likely the best ever seen in the NHL, the task of stopping them seemed impossible. It was not a question of if Edmonton would score, but how many.
The Golden Knights clung to a 4-2 lead until Connor McDavid swooped off the edge, behind the Golden Knights defensemen, and chipped in a short breakaway goal halving the VGK lead to 4-3, with about three minutes of the major penalty remaining.
That was all they got on the power play, and for the rest of the game. The Golden Knights won Game 5, 4-3 Friday at T-Mobile Arena.
Technically, the Golden Knights’ PK killed only one of four penalties. In reality, the PK was aggressive and deserved a better fate. A few bad bounces wound up in the net, but they didn’t demoralize the VGK. Actually, it energized them.
“(Weird) isn’t it? I mean, it is. Once the first one went in, (the penalty killers) really bore down. So that could have been a turning point in the game. Big time,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “And we got through it. Even though we lost the special teams battle, three goals to two, in our minds, we won. And that’s how we look at it. Our five-on-five game again was solid. We’ve been typically the better team, I think, for most of the games.”
The Vegas Golden Knights battled the Edmonton Oilers to a near special teams draw, a moral victory considering Edmonton’s ridiculous success throughout the 2022-23 season.
While Edmonton scored three power-play goals, they did not carry the momentum the Golden Knights gained from theirs. Essentially, the Golden Knights also scored three power-play goals, though the stat sheets show only two because the third was scored one second after Mattias Janmark’s high-sticking foul ended.
2. Net Front:
The net front could be painted gold because that’s what it’s worth. Adding fuel to the Fortress fire, the Golden Knights scored three goals, including a pair on the power play, within a few feet of the net.
All three were of utmost importance, including the first Golden Knights goal. Just 50 seconds after Edmonton took a 1-0 lead with McDavid’s power-play goal, Jack Eichel went to the net and was rewarded with a rebound chance. He buried it.
The early Edmonton dagger was again erased by a star player with a greasy goal.
“Eichel got inside and got to the front net. We needed to get greasy tonight,” Cassidy said. “We needed to get to the top of the crease. He scored from there. Mark Stone scored from there, and Reilly Smith scored from there. The last goal with traffic in front. And that’s been our formula.”
Mark Stone scored on the 5v3 in front, as did Reilly Smith to cap three goals in 1:29. It was Smith’s first goal of the playoffs, and it was the explosion following the spark that sent the T-Mobile Arena crowd into a boisterous delirium that not only moved the soundboard needle but probably the Richter scale, too.
The noise level rose, fueling the intensity of the game but also the Golden Knights’ legs, just as it did in the second-period onslaught, too.
“After the 5v3 (goal) and the 5v4 (goal), the energy was amazing,” Jonathan Marchessault observed.
3. Crowd Noise/Burying Edmonton
Killer instinct. With a historic number of comebacks in the NHL this season, perhaps teams lack the killer instinct. Perhaps it’s tougher to hold a lead in the burgeoning offensive age.
With the game on the line, the Golden Knights locked down the third period, never letting Edmonton get momentum and finally constricting them like an angry python late in the third period.
With about four minutes remaining, the Golden Knights put the puck deep in the Edmonton zone and controlled the puck. And controlled the puck … and controlled the puck.
“Yeah, for sure, because you’re keeping their top players on the ice, and when they’re defending, they’re not being able to create anything,” Reilly Smith said. “So, they played their top guys a lot on the powerplay at the start of the period, and they seemed worn down at the end.”
The Golden Knights punished Edmonton with physical play on the wall, quick backchecks to create turnovers, and shielding the puck.
It wore down McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. They had to defend instead of attack. It was the perfect defense of a lead.
The Vegas Golden Knights will have a chance to end the series Sunday in Edmonton.