Saturday, April 22, 2023 | 2 a.m.
The second period of Game 2 was more about the Golden Knights finding their game.
It didn’t happen right away. It was a gradual crescendo following four periods of frustration, looking overmatched against the Winnipeg Jets and staring at a 2-0 series deficit if things didn’t change quickly.
“It’s the little things,” center William Karlsson said.
Keeping things simple has been the turn of phrase used by the Golden Knights following their disappointing effort in Game 1.
They tried to be the aggressor and hit everything that moved. Didn’t work. They kept going for the big play, trying stretch passes from the defensive zone to spring breakaway opportunities at every opportunity. Didn’t work.
After an emotional first period where the game nearly got away from Vegas, they started to dial it back. The little things Karlsson refers to showed up, and the Golden Knights carried that momentum for the final 35 minutes of the game to win 5-2 on Thursday and even the best-of-7 series at a game apiece.
With the series shifting to Winnipeg today for Game 3 (1 p.m., ATTSN-RM), that attention to detail will need to be sharpened heading into one of the loudest playoff environments in the NHL.
“Just keep doing the same things that made us successful after the first period,” defenseman Zach Whitecloud said. “We did a good job both games starting the right way.”
Whitecloud added the Jets got to their game first in both games, and that’s what swayed the pendulum in Winnipeg’s favor early. In Game 1, Winnipeg answered Vegas’ aggression with two goals in 62 seconds during the second period and secured all momentum.
Game 2 was much different with the Jets outshooting the Golden Knights 11-2 in the first 10-plus minutes, including the game’s first goal from Winnipeg’s Adam Lowry.
Frustration mounted late in the first when Pietrangelo and teammate Nicolas Roy were assessed roughing minors 15 seconds apart, leading to a 4-on-3 for the Jets and a chance to put the game away early.
The Jets had just one shot on goal in those two minutes. Little things.
“I think that was a bit of a momentum swing,” Karlsson said. “Every time you can kill off a PK, especially a 4-on-3, I think that’s going to give off a lot of energy.”
That translated to the second period in question.
Karlsson deserves an abundance of credit for being the lone driver of offense through a game-and-a-half, but his goal in Game 2 was a byproduct of extending pressure in the offensive zone and winning puck battles. The sustained offensive zone pressure eventually led to Karlsson gathering the loose puck and firing it over Connor Hellebuyck’s glove to tie the game.
“When you win puck battles, everything opens up, right?” Karlsson said. “We get puck movement, we get people at the net and good things happen.”
The same can be said for Jack Eichel’s goal five minutes later that gave the Golden Knights their first lead of the series. After an offensive-zone faceoff, Jonathan Marchessault and Michael Amadio worked behind the net to maintain possession, found Pietrangelo for the shot that was tipped by Eichel for the 2-1 advantage.
Coach Bruce Cassidy said that goal is one the Golden Knights can build off of and use it as an example of how to score in the playoffs with teams protecting the crease more than usual.
“It’s a good hockey goal for us because we’re below the goal line against their D, which was part of our gameplan, is make them work down low,” Cassidy said. “Amadio and Marchy did a really good job. They separated down low, they held on to pucks.”
By the time the Jets tied it 2-2 late in the second, those goals already dictated the pace for the third. The Golden Knights continued the game plan of putting pucks behind the Winnipeg net and winning battles to set up plays in the offensive zone.
That needs to continue if the Golden Knights want to reclaim home-ice advantage. They put 39 shots on Hellebuyck after just 17 in Game 1. Vegas had 12 high-danger chances — eight of them in the final two periods — and outshot Winnipeg 31-16 in the final 40 minutes after the Jets had a 17-8 edge in the first.
Perhaps that’s why the road to 16 wins is a marathon. It’s the little things along the way that can help get the Golden Knights there.
“We feel we have a very good hockey team,” Eichel said. “I don’t think we played to our standard in Game 1. It was important for us to get back to what makes us successful as a team in Game 2, and we did that.”
Golden Knights – Jets, Game 3 (Series tied 1-1)
Time: 1 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet, TBS (out of market)
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM
Odds: Even (-110) at Westgate Las Vegas Superbook