Published Wednesday, May 3, 2023 | 9:27 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, May 3, 2023 | 11:29 p.m.
Bruce Cassidy called Ivan Barbashev a “playoff player.” One way to be that is to get in front of the net and score tough goals in the playoffs.
Two of his three goals Wednesday night came with that mindset: a loose puck in front of the net, and a deflection in front of the goalie.
Barbashev scored twice, including the go-ahead goal early in the third period that proved to be the game-winner, and the Golden Knights held on for a 6-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers in Game 1 of their second-round series at T-Mobile Arena.
“I think it was a really good game by us,” Barbashev said. “Just stuck to our plan and got a huge win.”
Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon hoped to get that net-front presence when acquiring Barbashev one week prior to the trade deadline in March. He has the playoff experience on his resume with a Stanley Cup ring in 2019 with the St. Louis Blues.
But that version of Barbashev had just six points in 23 games. This version of Barbashev, who has contributed to a game-winning overtime goal in Game 3 against Winnipeg and now with two goals tonight, has five points in six postseason games with Vegas.
Mark Stone added a goal and an assist, and Michael Amadio scored for the Golden Knights to take a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 is here Saturday.
“I thought we were terrific,” said goalie Laurent Brossoit, who won his fifth straight playoff game and made 24 saves. “Another collective effort from us. Up and down the lineup, we had a lot of big nights from a lot of guys.”
One of those big nights came not from the Golden Knights. Edmonton star Leon Draisaitl had four goals, becoming the second player in the last 24 hours to hit that mark. Dallas Stars forward Joe Pavelski had four in Tuesday’s 5-4 loss to the Seattle Kraken.
No disrespect to Pavelski, but Draisaitl — along with the NHL’s scoring leader Connor McDavid — are gamebreakers who can change the game at a moment’s notice. Draisaitl struck early on the power play at 3:56, a one-timer off a seam pass from McDavid, for a 1-0 Oilers lead.
While Draisaitl and the Oilers wasted no time getting their high-octane offense rolling, the Golden Knights wasted no time in responding.
That was the difference in Game 1, thanks to their deadline acquisition.
It took 50 seconds for the Golden Knights to respond to Draisaitl’s first of two power-play goals. Barbashev gathered a loose puck from the slot, turned and beat Edmonton rookie goalie Stuart Skinner to tie it 1-1.
That got the snowball rolling for Vegas in the beginning of a three-goal first period.
Michael Amadio converted an odd-man rush at 9:54 off a pass from William Karlsson to give the Knights the lead. Then, on a power play of their own, Mark Stone scored his fourth goal of the postseason on a deflection from Reilly Smith for a 3-1 lead.
It was a perfect first period that the Golden Knights could hang their hat on. They dominated at 5-on-5, limiting Edmonton’s offense and not allowing much outside of Draisaitl’s goal.
That was, until Draisaitl’s second goal with 10.3 seconds left in the period when he was two feet below the goal line and banked it off Brossoit’s back to cut it to 3-2.
It’s those kinds of plays that could take wind out of a team’s sails, the kind of play that reminds those watching who are the superstars in the league. With Edmonton overall getting hardly any offense on this night, it was Draisaitl doing it all. He tied it 3-3 at 1:35 in the third on his second power-play tally, then his fourth of the game at 8:33 of the third.
But it wasn’t just that the Golden Knights responded each time Draisaitl seemed to have an answer. It was the timing of the response, courtesy of their top trade deadline acquisition.
Barbashev answered Draisatil’s first power-play goal 50 seconds after to tie the game. After Draisaitl tied it early in the third, Barbashev deflected Zach Whitecloud’s shot from the point 1:01 after to restore the Vegas lead, 4-3.
Chandler Stephenson scored his fifth goal of the postseason 50 seconds after Barbashev’s goal to make it 5-3.
“We’re right back to a one-goal lead. It was going like that for a while,” Stephenson said. “It was obviously huge to get that right back after they tied it up.”
The Golden Knights stressed heading into this series that they trusted their depth against McDavid and Draisaitl. It showed in Game 1 with 11 different Vegas players scoring a point, while Edmonton had just five.
That’s not expected to be the case in Game 2. The Oilers lost Game 1 of their first-round series to the Los Angeles Kings — 4-3 in overtime, at home — before winning the series in six.
This was the Golden Knights’ first game in six days after their five-game series win against Winnipeg. They’re about to have two more days before Game 2, then the series shifts to Edmonton.
It wasn’t the prettiest effort, but it was as good as you could ask for the No. 1 seed in the West — the betting underdog at +125 at some books — to steal a game.
So far, so good.
“I thought we were good. We’re aware of their top guys and the damage they can do, but we like our team,” Cassidy said. “We feel if our team plays well, we’re going to have success.”
Danny Webster can be reached at 702-259-8814 or [email protected]. Follow Danny on Twitter at twitter.com/DannyWebster21.