Game three between the Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks started out rough for Vegas, but quickly turned around. After killing off an early first period penalty, the Golden Knights struck quickly with two goals. Alex Tuch scored on a partial breakaway to make it 1-0, and Zach Whitecloud scored off a turnover by Quinn Hughes to make it 2-0. Despite being down 2-0 early, Vancouver controlled most of the play in the first period. Vancouver’s best chance came on a 5 on 3 powerplay opportunity late in the period, but Robin Lehner stood on his head. Vancouver nearly doubled the shots of Vegas but came away empty in the period.
The second period saw no scoring, but not from a lack of trying. Early in the period, the teams traded chances. Both Jacob Markstrom and Robin Lehner stood on their heads in the period. Vegas really seemed to turn the tide in this period, outshooting Vancouver 15-7. Vancouver got some life when Nicolas Roy took a penalty late in the period, allowing the Canucks to start the third period with around a 90 second man advantage.
Vancouver came into the third period desperately needing to score on the remainder of their powerplay. They instead, took a too-many men on the ice penalty and gave Vegas a shortened powerplay. Vegas capitalized on their powerplay on a goal from Mark Stone to make it 3-0. The Vegas defense took over the game after, holding Vancouver to very few high danger scoring chances. The Golden Knights held on for the win in game 3, putting them up 2-1 in the series. Robin Lehner recorded his second shut out in three games. He played incredible when called upon by his team and was the best player on the ice for Vegas in the first period.
The Golden Knights were one of the best teams in the NHL in the second half of back-to-backs with a 9-2 record. Vancouver on the other hand had a 3-4 record in these situations. Despite Lehner shutting out the Canucks, Marc-Andre Fleury got the start in net.
The first period of game four started out much different than game three. Vegas drew the first powerplay of the game and capitalized on it. Max Pacioretty sniped a shot between the legs of Jacob Markstrom to make it 1-0. Vancouver answered shortly after though after Vegas took a penalty. The goal came from Elias Pettersson, who beat Fleury high glove-side to even the score. Just over two minutes after Pettersson’s goal, Chandler Stephenson scored his second goal of the playoffs to make it 2-1. That score would hold through the rest of the period.
Second periods have plagued the Golden Knights since the playoffs began, and tonight it hurt them once again. Just over four minutes into the period, Bo Horvat scored to even the score at two. Vegas had a hard push after this goal, looking to regain the lead. Their best chance came off the stick of Jonathan Marchessault, who was robbed by Jacob Markstrom. Fleury returned the favor, stoning Elias Pettersson in front of the net with a spectacular glove save shortly after. Around the half-way mark in the period, Vegas took another penalty and Vancouver capitalized once again. Quinn Hughes set up Tyler Toffoli who beat Fleury over his shoulder to give the Canucks a 3-2 lead. Vegas took two more penalties after that goal, but the penalty killers stood tall. Vegas pushed in the period but were unable to find the back of the net. The Golden Knights went into the intermission needing some more third period magic to make a comeback in this game.
While second periods have plagued Vegas, third periods have been their saving grace. Sunday's game proved this statement true. Nate Schmidt evened the score at 3 shortly after the period started thanks to some heavy forechecking by Vegas’ third line. The Canucks turned up the pressure afterwards looking for the go-ahead goal. Their best chance during this time came from Jacob Virtanen, who’s shot went just wide of Fleury. Vegas got the last laugh, however. After a turnover in the neutral zone led to an odd man rush, Max Pacioretty gave Vegas a 4-3 lead. William Karlsson gave Vegas some much needed breathing room after tipping a pass from Pacioretty past Markstrom to make it 5-3. The Golden Knights defense locked down once again and the score held up, giving Vegas a 3-1 series lead over the Canucks. Despite allowing three goals, Marc-Andre Fleury played very well. He made some big stops in the second period and third period to keep Vegas in the game.
Vegas will look to close out the series on Sept. 1. The Golden Knights’ wins this weekend have given them a commanding lead in the series. The hardest part of any series is getting the fourth win, and Vegas is no stranger to that. It will take every player playing their best to finish off Vancouver, but they have proven they are up to the task.