John Woods / The Canadian Press via AP
Monday, April 24, 2023 | 2 a.m.
It doesn’t matter how you win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
However, that the Golden Knights don’t want to see three-goal leads in the third period evaporate every game. They would like to not need double overtime to stave off another memorable playoff collapse.
Yet, it’s the Golden Knights who hold the 2-1 series lead over the Winnipeg Jets with Game 4 at Canada Life Centre tonight. It’s the Golden Knights who found a way to steal back home-ice advantage and put the pressure on the underdog Jets, knowing a win Monday could set up a win-or-go-home situation Thursday.
“You want to close out the game, but those emotional wins are fun, right?” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “You obviously want to end the game when you can. Every team wants to.”
That won’t deter the Golden Knights from feeling good escaping Game 3 on Saturday with a 5-4 double-overtime win. They would’ve preferred to close out Winnipeg in the third period with a 4-1 lead after a dominant 40 minutes.
But the Golden Knights don’t feel that the Jets’ three goals were a result of bad play. Two of them came with an extra skater on the ice — Mark Scheifele’s power-play goal, and Adam Lowry’s tying tally with 21.9 seconds remaining. The other, from Nino Niederreiter less than three minutes into the frame, was a good shot.
“I think we kept with it,” forward Reilly Smith said. “It’s tough to give up a goal late in the game, but I think we took over in overtime and didn’t give them too many opportunities after that.”
It’s going to be viewed as a missed opportunity for the Jets, and now they go into Game 4 severely shorthanded. Top defenseman Josh Morrissey is out for the rest of the series due to a lower-body injury after colliding with Vegas’ Zach Whitecloud. Morrissey played just two shifts before exiting.
The Golden Knights’ forechecking has been a strength the past few weeks, and there’s an opportunity for that to be an advantage with Morrissey out of the lineup, putting pressure on a depleted defense group.
“I thought we did a really good job last game forechecking really well,” Pietrangelo said. “It’s something we kind of thrive on.”
Cassidy said Morrissey’s absence won’t impact how the Golden Knights want to approach the game. There could be some changes from Winnipeg’s side on the power play without their power-play quarterback leading the charge, but the Vegas coach doesn’t envision too much changing.
Morrissey is expected to be a finalist for the Norris Trophy this season after a career-high 76 points (16 goals, 60 assists) this season.
Neal Pionk is expected to take over the bulk of Morrissey’s responsibilities. He had three assists in a game-high 41:08.
“They’re a good team. They’ll put in another good player,” Cassidy said. “How they sort of adapt to that will be up to them, but it shouldn’t change our approach.”
There won’t be any need for the Golden Knights to change their game plan after the way the past two games have gone. Vegas has controlled play in four of the last six regulation periods after Winnipeg rolled in the 5-2 win in Game 1.
Much is to be the same in Game 4. The home crowd will be energized again, and the Golden Knights are expecting the Jets to feed off that energy. The veteran experience from Vegas — a combined six Stanley Cups on the game day roster — will be relied upon to try and carry a 3-1 series lead back to Las Vegas for Game 5 on Thursday.
“You take a step back and look at what you need to do better to continue to shutting opponents down in that situation,” Pietrangelo said. “Credit to them. They came back down the stretch and found a way to score, but for us, it’s something we can look at and figure out what we need to do better in those situations moving forward.”
Golden Knights-Jets Game 4 (Golden Knights lead best-of-7 series 2-1)
Time: 6:30 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet (Cox 313, DirecTV 684), ESPN2 (out of market)
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM
Odds: Even (-105) at Westgate Las Vegas Superbook
Danny Webster can be reached at 702-259-8814 or [email protected]. Follow Danny on Twitter at twitter.com/DannyWebster21.