Thursday, April 27, 2023 | 2 a.m.
Bruce Cassidy isn’t a fan of the phrase “weathering the storm,” a term used to describe a team overcoming adversity early in a game.
The Golden Knights’ coach feels it’s important to establish a tempo early and build off of it, no matter the environment.
Perhaps the Golden Knights weren’t trying to weather a storm in Game 4, but falling behind 1-0 early and coming back by scoring three unanswered goals was a good answer. Vegas went on to win 4-2 and take a commanding 3-1 lead over the Winnipeg Jets in their first-round best-of-seven series. The victory came on the heels of a 5-4 double-overtime win in Game 3 after the Golden Knights gave up a three-goal lead in the third period.
Maybe William Karlsson has a better description.
“I thought we were a little more cool this time around,” the Vegas center said of Monday night’s victory.
Cool, composed, ready. All are superlatives you can use to describe the Golden Knights after they set up a win-or-go-home situation for the Jets tonight at T-Mobile Arena (7 p.m., ATTSN-RM, ESPN2).
In hindsight, the Golden Knights took a page out of the Jets’ playbook to take control of the series.
Game 1 was a dominant outing by Winnipeg. The Golden Knights got away from their game. They tried being the aggressor, hitting more than usual and trying to set a physical tone. The Jets answered with a 5-1 win on the road.
After falling behind 1-0 in Game 2, Vegas got on track. Passes and breakouts were more clean. The Golden Knights won 5-2 after dominating play in the second and third periods.
Everything clicked for most of Game 3.
The Golden Knights jumped out to a 4-1 lead after controlling play in the first 40 minutes. In addition to taking the lead, they shut the Jets down through two periods and just 11 shots on goal. Winnipeg answered with three consecutive goals in the third period to force overtime before Michael Amadio’s goal ended it 3:40 into the second extra frame.
“I’d say (Saturday’s double-overtime) game was a nice learning experience for us,” said Vegas goalieLaurent Brossoit.
The lesson was learned. The Golden Knights didn’t get rattled after Blake Wheeler’s opening goal on the power play almost six minutes into Game 4 Monday. Vegas’ forecheck was problematic for the Jets, causing turnovers and creating odd-man rushes that led to scoring chances.
Vegas reeled off three consecutive goals by Brett Howden, Karlsson and Ivan Barbashev.
“At this point in the season, you have to learn from your mistakes,” said Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore. “We didn’t want to let what happened (in Game 3) happen again, and I think we regrouped well enough to get the job done.”
Given how Game 3 went — and the past few days, with the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs rallying from three goals down to win Game 4 of their respective series — no one would be blamed for having a case of “here we go again” with the Golden Knights.
Winnipeg’s Pierre-Luc Dubois scored a power-play goal at 2:57 of the third period to cut Vegas’ lead to 3-2 Monday, but once again, the Golden Knights kept their cool. The Jets had just five shots on goal in the third period, thanks in large part to Vegas’ ability to shut down the neutral zone and limit dangerous opportunities.
Even though Cassidy is just four games into his first Vegas playoff run, he said he’s learned about his group’s resiliency.
“I think Winnipeg when they’re talking, they feel they’re right there,” he said. “We’ve been able to get through those moments and get back to our game. The timely goal, the timely save, the game-changing series of events, we’ve been able to handle well.
“We’re not shying away from adversity or a bad stretch. We’re pulling up our socks and getting back to work.”
Tonight’s game will present more of those moments. A loss means the Golden Knights have to return to Winnipeg for Game 6 on Saturday, in front of that loud environment they’ve conquered twice. But this time, the Jets would have life with the chance to force a Game 7.
Vegas faced this similar situation in 2021 when it returned to T-Mobile Arena with a 3-1 lead over the Minnesota Wild, only for the Wild to win Games 5 and 6, before rebounding in Game 7 to stave off a colossal collapse.
Theodore said the Golden Knights have the experience to close out the series at home in Game 5.
“We definitely don’t want to come back here,” he said after Monday’s Game 4 victory in Winnipeg.
Golden Knights-Jets Game 5 (Vegas leads best-of-7 series, 3-1)
Time: 7 p.m.
TV: AT&T SportsNet, ESPN2
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM
Odds: Golden Knights -176, Jets +158 (Westgate Las Vegas Superbook)