However, their opening game against the Vancouver Canucks Monday night squashed any fears that the controversy had affected the team’s focus.
The Golden Knights were never in any danger of losing tonight’s game. After an early powerplay that did not amount to a goal, the Golden Knights turned up the intensity. Jonathan Marchessault got the Golden Knights on the board after a pass from Reilly Smith ricocheted off a Canucks defender and onto his stick. Marchessault then caught Jacob Markstrom off his angle and tucked the puck in on the goal line to make it 1-0. Immediately following the goal, Vegas nearly made it 2-0 after a shot from William Carrier narrowly missed the net. Nothing more would come in the period, but Vegas was not short on chances. Despite the shots being relatively even at the end of the first period, Vegas dominated prime scoring chances. The Golden Knights took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission and left no doubt that they were not distracted by the controversy.
The second period of hockey games has plagued the Golden Knights since the restart of the season. Tonight’s game did not fit that script. Vegas got an early powerplay in the period, which resulted in a Reilly Smith goal, who was left all alone in front of the net after a few turnovers by the Canucks. Mark Stone scored his fifth goal of the playoffs later in the period after tipping a shot from Nate Schmidt past Jacob Markstrom. Alex Tuch scored his fifth goal of the playoffs as well after blowing by two Vancouver defenders and rifling a shot past Markstrom. Vancouver got their first and only powerplay in the second period but were unable to generate any offense. The Golden Knights continued to dominate in the second period, not allowing many high danger scoring chances for Vancouver. They went into the second intermission up 4-0 and running Vancouver out of the building.
Vancouver went into the third period searching for some answers to the strong play of the Golden Knights. It did not come to pass, and Vegas once again dominated the third period. Max Pacioretty scored the only goal of the period on a pass from Mark Stone to make it 5-0. Vegas’ fifth goal of the game ended the night for Jacob Markstrom. The Vegas defense locked down for the remainder of the game and gave the Canucks no room to operate for the remainder of the period. The score held up and Vegas won the game 5-0 in dominant fashion.
Robin Lehner did not have to do much tonight but managed to stop all 21 shots he faced, recording his first career playoff shutout. Reilly Smith, Mark Stone, Alex Tuch, and Shea Theodore all recorded multi-point games as well. Ryan Reaves and William Carrier lead the way physically for the Golden Knights, recording 20 of the teams 54 hits.
The Golden Knights took a 1-0 series lead with their win Monday night. They play Vancouver again Aug. 25 and will look to continue their dominance over the Canucks.