Following a disappointing Game One that lacked "bravado" according to defenseman Nate Schmidt, the Vegas Golden Knights imposed their will on the Dallas Stars to the tune of a 3-0 shutout victory. Robin Lehner picked up his FOURTH shutout of the postseason, matching the Game One effort of Anton Khudobin on the other end.
A 1-0 loss - which they experienced in Game One - is not a typical Golden Knights outcome. Their games tend to feature far more goals for along with a more favorable result. Instead, Marc-Andre Fleury and Khudobin got into a goalie's duel. Fleury was just about as perfect as the many they call "Dobby", if it weren't for the Stars' first shot of the game finding the net. Now relegated to back-up duty, Fleury took just one shot to settle in, but was let down by a lack of goal support.
A frustrated, hungry, and borderline embarrassed VGK team started Game Two properly. They were fast, they were physical, and the offense began to chip in productively. Unlike Game One, the team racked up high danger chances, tripling their Game One total (at 5-on-5) and topping Dallas' output by a 2:1 margin.
For a long stretch of games, Shea Theodore was the Messiah, the only man who could score. Thirteen forwards saw ice time between Game 5 of the Vancouver series and Game Two on Tuesday evening. In those four games, the Golden Knights' forwards were held scoreless. Alex Tuch and Paul Stastny netted ENGs in Game Seven, but that was it.
Stastny's backdoor goal, from Max Pacioretty, was a welcome sight 4:53 into the second period. A forward finally did forward things and scored. Less than four minutes later, another drought was erased by the Golden Knights.
William Karlsson's Power Play snipe made the game 2-0, but more importantly was just their tenth goal in 17 playoff games with the man advantage. The goal brought their PP up to 18.5%, a mark below the standards of a roster of their caliber. Karlsson has had a relatively quiet postseason and was visibly relieved and emphatic when his high circle shot found the twine.
An insurance marker was added by Tomas Nosek with 5:28 left in a fruitful second period for the VGK. This game was all Vegas and Nosek's tally was just the icing on the cake heading into the third period. Khudobin was relieved by backup Jake Oettinger, playing in his first NHL game, for the final period. They'd all but phoned it in and this tic-tac-toe play from players on three different lines, validates that observation.
A thing of beauty. #WontStopVegas pic.twitter.com/DvyvKbAedc
Roster shuffling and a return to an energy-filled start keyed the Golden Knights' win. Fresh off his one-game suspension, the Reaves line took the first shift and set the tone, as Head Coach Pete DeBoer likes to see.
"When I took over, there was a little bit of an issue with slow starts."
"They're ready to go an hour before game time.....I don't think it's an accident that we didn't start them last night and we didn't have a great start."
- DeBoer on the 4th line
His line shuffling left the typical fourth line unchanged. He also kept the newly reunited Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith unit together. Mark Stone spent the game flanking Chandler Stephenson and Alex Tuch, while Max Pacioretty and Stastny welcomed Nicolas Roy to their unit.
For now, the changes look to be the right move. Lehner stayed hot and the temporarily non-existent forward support reappeared. Looking forward, the Golden Knights are anticipating a motivated Stars team after a shutout loss, a response similar to theirs to Game One.
Game Three goes down on Thursday at 5pm PDT, from the Roger's Place in the Edmonton bubble. If I were a betting man, I'd anticipate no lineup changes, including in goal, as long as Ben Bishop remains "Unfit to Play".
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