John Woods / The Canadian Press via AP
Published Saturday, April 22, 2023 | 4:59 p.m.
Updated 5 minutes ago
Michael Amadio’s soft-spoken manner doesn’t allow for many moments where he can express exuberant joy.
Scoring his first Stanley Cup Playoff goal, and doing so as the game-winner, is one way to reach that apex.
Amadio, who scored a career-high 16 goals during the regular season, scored 3:40 into the second overtime as the Golden Knights overcame a third-period rally from the Winnipeg Jets for a 5-4 win Saturday at Canada Life Centre in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series.
Shortly after a Vegas power play expired, a makeshift line of Amadio, Ivan Barbashev and Brett Howden took the ice to allow the top-line players to rest. Jets defenseman Dylan Samberg’s clearing attempt deflected off Barbashev’s skate, Amadio turned in the slot and beat Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck.
The Golden Knights lead the best-of-7 series 2-1 heading into Game 4 Monday in Winnipeg (6:30 p.m., ATTSN-RM, ESPN).
“It was a pretty special feeling,” said Amadio, who added he didn’t even know he scored until he turned back to see his teammates mob him. “We grinded all night for that one.”
What may go down as one of the more exciting playoff games in Golden Knights history was almost remembered for all the wrong reasons. Vegas carried a 4-1 lead heading into the third period after it controlled play through two periods.
The Golden Knights got there thanks to two goals from Jack Eichel and goals from Chandler Stephenson and Keegan Kolesar. Eichel added an assist for his first 3-point playoff game and four through the last two games. Stephenson had an assist for his second straight multipoint game.
But Winnipeg, who already overachieved by stealing Game 1 against the West’s top seed, rallied behind its roaring home crowd and the intimidating Winnipeg Whiteout to make a run.
Nino Niederreiter scored 2:04 into the third period to make it 4-2, followed by Mark Scheifele’s power-play goal at 14:08 with Phil Kessel serving a holding minor.
With Hellebuyck pulled for the extra skater, Adam Lowry scored his fourth goal of the series with 21.9 seconds remaining to force extra time.
“We kind of regrouped going back [into the locker room] for overtime,” Amadio said. “We know what we had in this room.”
The Jets managed to rally despite Norris Trophy-contending defenseman Josh Morrissey leaving the game due to a lower-body injury in his second shift of the game. Jets coach Rick Bowness said Morrissey will not play the remainder of the series.
Yet playing with five defensemen — Winnipeg’s Neal Pionk had three assists playing a game-high 41:08 — the Jets nearly had a comeback to remember before running out of steam.
“I didn’t feel like we were in trouble,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We have a veteran group. Two things go into that: you shouldn’t give up a lead when you have a veteran group. You should find a way to get it to the finish line. We also have a veteran group who can put it behind us.”
The Golden Knights were one of the best road teams in the league this season with a 26-7-8 mark. Cassidy said Friday that he felt the effort all year away from T-Mobile Arena could transfer to the postseason.
It didn’t take long for that to hold true. Kolesar and Jets defenseman Brenden Dillon dropped the gloves 49 seconds into the game, carrying over the intensity from a physical Game 2.
Just like Game 1, the Golden Knights channeled that energy in their favor. Stephenson opened the scoring 2:52 into the game off an assist from Mark Stone.
Stephenson found Eichel for a one-timer with the man advantage and a 2-0 lead at 6:18.
Kyle Connor, Winnipeg’s top scorer this season, made it 2-1 on a deflection at 9:07, but the Golden Knights kept the Jets at bay offensively. Vegas outshot Winnipeg 26-11 through the first two periods and had a 47-33 edge in shot attempts in all situations.
Vegas added with two more goals in the second period. Eichel scored his second at 10:46 on another one-timer on the power play, then Kolesar added the fourth at 17:45.
“It’s hard to win hockey games in the playoffs and we’ll take them however we can get them,” Stone said. “We want to close that game out for sure, right? They played five defense all night. We kept putting pucks behind them, rolled four lines, three D-pairs, and we found a way.”
If there was any worry that the Golden Knights wouldn’t carry their play from the last two periods in Game 2 over to Game 3, they were quickly erased. Even the power play, which was heavily maligned following Game 1, found a way to score twice. When the second period buzzer sounded, the Golden Knights had outscored the Jets 9-2 in the last four periods of play.
The moment defining that dominance came after Kolesar’s goal to make it 4-1. As he slammed his hands into the glass to celebrate, TV cameras caught a Jets fan staring back at Kolesar, arms outreached, nodding his way in an odd form of intimidation.
Playoff hockey, however, provided one subtle reminder: One bad period can easily wipe out a dominant 40 minutes. The Golden Knights were one goal away from what would’ve been another memorable playoff collapse. Cue all memories from Game 7 against San Jose in 2019.
But Vegas has found a way, after things went haywire in Game 1, to steal back home-ice advantage. Suddenly, the Golden Knights can put the pressure on with a win on Monday.
Such is the roller coaster that is playoff hockey.
“We won’t be the first team to let a lead slip away,” Cassidy said. “We’ve been through it a little bit this year. We’re an imperfect team, but we tend to find a way to bounce back.”