It is advantage Vegas Golden Knights after they drew first blood against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1.
After a first period that lacked any real intensity, the Vegas Golden Knights relied on their stars and their depth to get the job done in the first game of a Best-of-Seven.
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It didn’t take Chicago long to respond, however, and it was a rare bad play by Theodore that led to Vegas giving up a shorthanded goal.
Having retrieved the puck in his own zone, Theodore wasn’t aware of his surroundings as he was bullied off the puck by Brandon Saad, who then made a slick backhand pass to David Kampf who buried it for his first Playoff goal.
The man with the golden touch came up big in the third period though, with Reilly Smith twice lighting the lamp.
Smith ripped a wrist shot that went off Crawford’s blocker and into the net, before the forward went to his backhand to beat Crawford to record his second goal of the game.
Robin Lehner made 19 saves from 20 shots against his former team as the Golden Knights took a 1-0 series lead.
We decided to bring back a popular feature by going over The Good, The Bad and The Strange…
Robin Lehner – Having dominated since his stunning Trade Deadline arrival from the Chicago Blackhawks, the 2018-19 Vezina Trophy finalist was named the Game 1 starter ahead of Marc-Andre Fleury.
While the decision surprised some, there is a real reason the Golden Knights broke their own rule by acquiring a pure rental.
They clearly think that Lehner can help them to win now and, while it isn’t clear what Vegas’ goaltending strategy will be going forward, Lehner certainly didn’t disappoint in Game 1.
He stopped 19 of the 20 shots he faced and, apart from an equipment blunder (which we’ll cover later), the 29-year-old was solid and made the saves he had to make look easy.
Granted, Lehner benefitted from the fact that his team didn’t give up too many high-danger chances but he did what he had to do and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him start Game 2.
Max Pacioretty – It was a sight to behold. Yes, we’re talking about seeing Max Pacioretty back on the ice for a game for the first time in over five months.
The veteran had sustained a lower-body injury during Training Camp and, as a result, missed all of the round-robin games.
However, Pacioretty was declared fit to play in Game 1 and he was solid if not spectacular in 18:08 minutes of total ice time.
Once Pacioretty knocks off the rust and regains some sharpness, he’ll be a real asset to the Golden Knights throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Smith and the dynamic second-line – With the top line controlling play well but not impacting the scoresheet, Vegas needed others to step up and provide offense.
They certainly got that from their dynamic second-line.
They finished the night with five points and 11 shots on goal with Smith the pick of the bunch with two goals.
Marchessault claimed the lone helper on both of Smith’s goals and both goals were the product of forced turnovers.
The second-line was also on the ice for Shea Theodore’s goal and the Golden Knights will need that trio to maintain that level of play.
Theodore’s Turnover – It isn’t often that Shea Theodore makes a mistake, even less often he commits one as bad as the one he did in Game 1.
Shortly after William Carrier made it a two nothing game in the second period, a play broke down in the offensive zone with Vegas on the power play and Theodore went back into his own zone to retrieve the puck.
Looking up to see if a play was available, Theodore didn’t seem aware that he had Brandon Saad breathing down his neck.
As a result, Theodore whiffed on a pass and was then knocked off the puck by Saad who showed incredible strength and even better poise to find team-mate David Kampf with a slick backhand pass who beat Robin Lehner with a shorthanded goal.
It was a rare blot on the copybook for Theodore who finished with a goal and a +2 rating in 20:45 minutes of total ice time.
Lehner’s Skate Blade – Now, we normally cover The Ugly in this feature but we thought The Strange would be more fitting given what unfolded in this game.
Named the Game 1 starter over Marc-Andre Fleury, Lehner was solid as we mapped out above but the elite goalie grabbed the headlines for different reasons.
Lehner’s left skate blade popped out not once but twice during the game, providing plenty of meme material for eternity.
The equipment mishap left the goalie flopping about in his crease before repairs were eventually made.
We can laugh about it now, and Vegas Head Coach Peter DeBoer certainly did that, but Lehner was lucky the wardrobe malfunction didn’t lead to a Chicago goal or two.
That’s our Good, Bad and The Strange done and we will be back after Game 2 between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.