When all hope looked lost, the Golden Knights’ “big guns” came alive by scoring two goals in 45 seconds to grab a 3-2 victory.
“The crowd was so awesome [tonight],” DeBoer said. “It was so nice to be back in that type of atmosphere. They were huge for us in the third period.”
The fans inside T-Mobile Arena gave the Golden Knights an extra level to start the game. Unfortunately, they were unable to capitalize on any of those chances. Alec Martinez, Chandler Stephenson, Dylan Sikura, and Alex Pietrangelo all had grade-A scoring chances, but Phillip Grubauer stood on his head to keep Vegas off the board.
The Avalanche spent most of the period chasing the puck. The Golden Knights were excellent at clearing their own zone and held the Avalanche to just three shots on net. They only had one true scoring chance, which came from the top line. Nathan Mackinnon found Mikko Rantanen streaking to the net on the backdoor, but his shot went just wide of the net.
The Golden Knights carried their momentum from the first period into the second. William Karlsson finally broke the stalemate between the two teams by kicking the puck from his skate to his stick and putting a backhand shot past Grubauer. 89 seconds later though, the Avs fourth line capitalized on a poor line change by Vegas to tie the game back up at one.
Vegas tried their hardest to get another one by Grubauer, but he continued to stand on his head to keep Vegas from taking the lead. Perhaps their best chance of the period after the Karlsson goal came of the stick of Max Pacioretty. Towards the end of the period, Pacioretty had a clean breakaway, but made one too many stick handles and Grubauer made an easy save.
Not long into the third period, Rantanen buried a power play chance just eight seconds in to give the Avalanche a 2-1 lead. Things did not look good for the VGK after this. Grubauer was still stopping every chance the Golden Knights had and the Golden Knights looked poised to fall down 3-0 in the series.
The Avalanche had multiple chances to increase their lead, but Marc-Andre Fleury shut the door. One of his best saves of the game came at 10:36 remaining in the game, after stopping a shot while falling down. Two minutes later, Brandon Saad had a chance in the high slot, but his shot rang off the far post.
In year one, the Golden Knights were a team that could take an impossible situation and make it possible. Tonight, they channeled some of that team of old. Of course, that spark came from none other than the "Misfit" line. With just over five minutes remaining in the game Jonathan Marchessault had a partial breakaway but fanned on the shot in front of Grubauer. Marchessault would not be denied however, and he banked his follow up shot off Grubauer’s back from behind the net to even up the score.
“That goal [from Marchessault] gave us the energy,” Karlsson said. “Going down 3-0 is hard in hockey, so [it was a huge goal]. Time will tell how big it was."
With the game tied, the 17,504 faithful fans inside T-Mobile erupted. However, Max Pacioretty’s goal 45 seconds later sent the roof of the building into the Stratosphere. The two goals 45 seconds apart were also the fastest in franchise history in the playoffs.
The Avalanche pulled Grubauer with 1:53 left in the game. The Golden Knight’s have been excellent defending 6 on 5 this season, but tonight they had their work cut out for them. The Avalanche generated a few high-danger chances, one of which led to a mad scramble in front of the net. Fleury kept that bid out and the Golden Knights cleared the puck with ease. With 45 seconds left, a loose puck found its way onto the stick of Rantanen once again, in the same spot he scored earlier and the same spot he scored to win game two. This time Fleury was up to the task and got his right pad down just in time to stop Rantanen's tying bid.
That was the last grasp for the Avalanche in the game, and the Golden Knights snatched a 3-2 victory from the jaws of defeat.
Tonight, when they needed it the most, the "big guns" stepped up and delivered. Last year in the bubble, Marchessault and Pacioretty struggled to make an impact in any of the games they have played. This time around, things could not be further from the truth. Marchessault has now scored two massive goals that have, in all likelihood, saved the Golden Knight's season. Max Pacioretty, after missing the first six playoff games due to injury, now has four points in four playoff games. This includes two game winning goals.
Despite the win tonight, the VGK still trail in the series. They have a chance on June 6 to even the series up at two games a piece.