LAS VEGAS — Momentum is a tricky thing in hockey.
It can be even more manipulative during playoff hockey.
And as important as it was for the Vegas Golden Knights to tilt the ice in their favor and feed off the energy of an announced crowd of 18,519 on Friday night in Game 5 against Edmonton, it was just as important to read the Oilers as momentum drained from their bodies.
Trailing 2-1 in the second period, the Golden Knights got three goals from Mark Stone, Reilly Smith and Nic Hague in an 89-second span and then held on for a 4-3 win over Edmonton.
Even bigger was a five-minute major that carried into the third period, and gave the Oilers – the league’s top power-play team in the postseason – plenty of time to get back in the game and steal momentum from Vegas.
Instead, the Oilers mustered just one goal, and with every tick of the clock through the final horn, Edmonton’s skaters couldn’t find the jump they had during victories in Games 2 and 4.
“I thought … they didn’t have the same jump that they certainly had up there in Edmonton, in Game 4,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “So we needed to take advantage of that. And I think our players sensed it, to be perfectly honest. They just didn’t have the same drive and intensity they had up there. The physicality that they showed in Game 4 wasn’t quite as evident.”
Jack Eichel had his fourth multi-point game, including his third three-point outing, with a goal and two assists for Vegas. Adin Hill stopped 31 of the 34 shots that came his way, including eight of nine during the five-minute major.
“That’s the difference in the game,” Hill said. “You give two there and it’s a tie game and who knows what happens from there? Our guys did a great job bearing down.”
Connor McDavid scored twice for Edmonton, while Zach Hyman also scored. Stuart Skinner made 18 saves for the Oilers before being pulled in the second period. Jack Campbell closed the game by stopping all nine of the shots he faced.
“Jack came in and did his job,” Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said. “He gave us a chance to win the game, and I thought our team pushed hard in that third period. I thought that the power play did its thing right off the bat. We had numerous chances to tie it up.”
Edmonton scored first for the fifth time in the series when McDavid beat Hill on a power play, scoring from a sharp angle near the goal line.
However, the lead wouldn’t last as the Golden Knights responded 50 seconds later when Eichel smacked home a loose puck in front of the crease to make it 1-1 just 3:52 into the game.
Eichel’s goal was the fourth time during the series that Vegas scored within two minutes of an Edmonton goal and the third time within 1:01.
Edmonton’s power play continued to haunt Vegas when Hyman positioned himself in front of the net and tipped in a shot that caromed off his glove to give the Oilers a 2-1 lead midway through the opening period.
After failing on their three previous power-play attempts, the Golden Knights made good on their fourth when Stone skated through the crease and reached around Skinner to knock the puck home.
It was a goal that not only electrified the fans inside T-Mobile Arena, but also ignited a run for the Golden Knights.
First, it was Smith giving Vegas its first lead of the night 29 seconds later, when he got his stick on the puck for a redirect in front of the net, and past Skinner.
Then it was Hague one minute later, with an absolute missile from the left end of the blue line that Skinner had no chance of catching.
Instead, Skinner was shown the bench in favor of backup goaltender Campbell.
McDavid added his second goal during the five-minute major to provide the final margin.
The teams travel to Edmonton, Alberta for Game 6 on Sunday.
And if there’s anything to be said about carrying momentum over from game to game, the Golden Knights will need all they can get with the high-octane Oilers playing for their playoff lives.