The Vegas Golden Knights have applied the stranglehold on the Los Angeles Kings.
Going into the Staples Center on Sunday night, the Vegas Golden Knights have had the better of their counterparts in this series. Two close emotional victories over the Kings at T-Mobile Arena have been the difference. Going on the road in a playoff game is a new challenge for these Golden Knights.
For the first time in franchise history, the Golden Knights will play their first road playoff game. They’re not as strong on the road as they are at home, but they have had some great stretches when on they travel out west. The Kings made some changes to their lineup ahead of game three.
Jake Muzzin entered the lineup for the first time in this series as he was nursing an upper-body injury. Drew Doughty also makes his return as Kevin Gravel and Paul LaDue sit this one out. Alex Iafallo returned to game three as Michael Amadio returns to the press box. As for the Golden Knights, they made a tough call as the returning David Perron dressed in favor of the slumping Tomas Tatar.
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The game started off at a solid pace when both teams traded hits on one another. This game was by far, the nastiest game of the series. Lots of scrums ensued with punches, hits, slashes and uncalled for chippiness after the whistle. William Carrier and Kyle Clifford each dropped the gloves in frustration.
The Golden Knights had a great first half of the first period. Jonathan Quick stood tall in the first period stopping eight of eight shots. They had the better of the scoring chances early on, but the Kings struck first.
Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb tried to make a physical play on Dustin Brown, but he quickly shuffled the puck over to an open Anze Kopitar. Kopitar made the cross-ice feed to Iafallo who roofed it past Marc-Andre Fleury for a 1-0 Kings lead. The surprising part was Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson were all caught up top of their own blue line.
The Golden Knights ended the first period on the penalty kill thanks to a Cody Eakin holding minor. Vegas Head Coach Gerard Gallant remained calm, and his team stuck with his gameplan entering the middle frame.
Vegas killed off the remaining time on the Kings power play to start the second period, but Fleury played a massive role in that sequence. As the period wore on, the Golden Knights started to get more scoring opportunities on Jonathan Quick. Tomas Nosek went on the odd man rush shorthanded but shot it right into Quicks chest. Shea Theodore also made a couple of great plays deking around the Kings defense for shots on goal.
However, the Kings found a breakdown in the Golden Knights defense. Doughty found a wide open Tyler Toffoli coming late into the play, but Fleury stood tall and made the best save of the game. That save proved to be crucial later on in the game.
Doughty goated Marchessault into a penalty at the very end of the second. Due to the Marchessault high stick minor, the Golden Knights had to kill a full penalty heading into the final period of play down a goal. Gallant continued to roll the same lines and stick with his game plan heading into the last 20 minutes.
The third started with the Golden Knights killing off the Marchessault minor rather easily. Vegas began to activating their defense more often as they commenced to go into desperation mode. The move finally paid off as the third line contributed on the scoresheet for the Golden Knights first goal of the game.
Perron started the sequence dishing off the puck from the boards to an open Colin Miller who rang it off the post. Perron then fed Eakin who’s shot got blocked then Ryan Carpenter found the loose puck and setup, Eakin, one more time who rocketed one past Quick to tie the game at one. The momentum the Golden Knights produced after the tying goal proved to be massive.
The Golden Knights went on the power play thanks to a Muzzin tripping call on Karlsson. Vegas couldn’t get anything going on the power play in this game. Additionally, the team went 0/4 against the NHL’s best penalty kill in the regular season.
Vegas continued to apply pressure, and it finally paid off as they scored the go-ahead goal. Schmidt made a sneaky pass to James Neal in the neutral zone who carried the puck along the boards and through Oscar Fantenberg. Neal went five-hole on Quick as he pointed to the sky as he embraced in celebration for the teams first lead of the game. But, Vegas wasn’t done yet.
21 seconds after Neal’s goal, Karlsson lost a faceoff in the offensive zone to Adrian Kempe in the offensive zone. However, Smith beat Tobias Reider for the loose puck and found Karlsson open in the slot, and he beat Quick clean. His first goal of the playoffs gave the Golden Knights a 3-1 lead.
The Kings struck back with one as Kopitar tipped a Fantenberg shot from the point past Fleury to make it 3-2. With two minutes left the Kings had life left in the tank. But it wasn’t meant to be as the Golden Knights smothered the Kings as time expired.
The team quickly gathered around Fleury in congratulations as his play shined in game three. He was the most significant reason as to why the Golden Knights were able to come back and take a 3-0 series lead. If he wasn’t in net, this game could’ve gotten ugly in a hurry.
Vegas Hockey Knights Three Stars
3rd Star) William Karlsson- Game-winning goal, two shots on goal, even plus/minus.
2nd Star) Cody Eakin- One goal, two shots on goal, +1 rating.
1st Star) Marc-Andre Fleury- 37 saves on 39 shots, two goals allowed in game three victory.
All in all, this was a fantastic road game for the Vegas Golden Knights. Rather than panic, this team showed a ton of heart and didn’t quit at any point in this game. The expansion team has a chance to sweep a playoff series for the first time in franchise history on Tuesday. But everyone in hockey knows that the fourth win in a series is always the hardest to get. Catch puck drop at 7:30 PM PT on AT&T Sportsnet or NBCSN.