The Vegas Golden Knights hit the mental reset button Friday after narrowly missing a commanding 3-0 series lead by losing in overtime to the Florida Panthers 3-2 at FLA Live Arena. On Thursday night, coach Bruce Cassidy admitted losing in the final minutes, and OT stings more.
And perhaps learning from his last trip to the Stanley Cup Final, Cassidy gave the Golden Knights the day off. No talk of Florida, no video, and no skating.
The Golden Knights will have a team meeting, maybe do some stretching, get medical attention as needed, and enjoy a day in Sunrise or Fort Lauderdale.
“If we’re going to have an off day, we want a mental reset. Everyone’s got a few bumps and bruises (that) you take care of. So we’re not practicing today. We’ll have a team meeting. Guys will stretch a little bit, get the necessary assistance from the medical team, whoever needs it,” Cassidy said. “We’re not doing video today. We’ll re-attack that stuff tomorrow morning and get back into focusing on the details. Today is a reset day.”
Game 3 was a bit of a muddy track. It’s hard to say it was crisp, but the Golden Knights appeared to be exerting control over the Panthers in the third period and on their way to another win — until they allowed a goal against the extra-attacker in the final minutes. The Golden Knights allowed only five even-strength shots in the final period, but one went in.
It was the third time in the postseason an extra attacker has scored on the Golden Knights, but the first time they’ve lost. They were 10-0 when holding a third-period lead before Game 3.
“Yeah, I think (we’re still in control). I mean, we’ve got Game 4, (if) we go win Game 4, it’s 3-1, and it’s a pretty big lead,” Brayden McNabb said. “So, they got a little momentum off winning the last game, but you know it ends after the game, and both teams have a chance to regroup. We know what’s at stake for Game 4. And it’s a big game for us.”
The series has an entirely new life, and the Golden Knights are unplugging to forget how close they came to a commanding series lead. Only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs came back in a Stanley Cup Final from down 3-0.
“I think we’ll just focus on film. (We will) build off our positives from last game offensively, what we did well defensively, but also we gave up three goals five-on-five. That’s not like us,” Keegan Kolesar said. “It’s something that we are going to have to clean up. We’re not going to beat ourselves down on it. We know we’ll be better for it next game.”
Kolesar nearly delivered the knockout blow to Florida when he clobbered Matthew Tkachuk with an open-ice hit in the first period. Tkachuk was pulled from the game by concussion spotters, but he returned in the second period.
Vegas Golden Knights Special Teams
The Golden Knights’ special teams have been night-and-day different in the Stanley Cup Final. Throughout the runup to the Final, the Golden Knights fought to even on the special teams battle. Their penalty killing was abysmal; even when removing the goals given up to Edmonton’s nearly unstoppable power play, the Golden Knights’ PK languished near 60%.
It ranked 14th or 15th of 16 teams until the recent run of perfection in the Stanley Cup Final, but they haven’t yet allowed a power play goal in the Stanley Cup Final.
The power play was also toward the back of the pack, below 20%.
“I think we understand Florida, how they’re trying to kill — their D does get away from the front of the net — a little more of a diamond coverage, so you can get to the interior,” Cassidy said. “And that’s the (Mark) Stone goal. Even that four-on-three, we can get into those pockets as well. So it comes down to execution and finishing some plays. We’re on a bit of a roll that way.”
The special teams were another reason the Vegas Golden Knights were within minutes of a chance to sweep the Florida Panthers. The VGK scored two power-play goals Thursday.