Less than three minutes into Game 3, it looked like the Vegas Golden Knights were in store for another long night in the Western Conference semifinals against the Edmonton Oilers.
Derek Ryan raced down the right side of the rink and centered a pass to Warren Foegle, who was in the right place to tap the puck past Vegas netminder Laurent Brossoit.
The Oilers were moving the puck, challenging Vegas’ defensemen, and creating turnovers – and that was only 2:45 into the game.
They clearly carried the momentum from Game 2, when they dominated the Golden Knights inside T-Mobile Arena on Saturday in a 5-1 win.
Then Vegas answered.
By the end of the second period, the Golden Knights led 5-1, and held on to secure Game 3 by the same score while taking back the home-ice edge for the best-of-seven series. The Golden Knights improved to 3-0 on the road this postseason.
Jonathan Marchessault scored his first two goals of the playoffs, while Zach Whitecloud, Jack Eichel and Chandler Stephenson each added goals in the win. Adin Hill stopped all 24 shots he faced after replacing Brossoit, who left midway through the first period with a lower-body injury. Brossoit made three saves.
“It’s part of the job … you always have to be ready,” Hill said of having to replace Brossoit. “I’ve been watching (the Oilers) pretty close all series, you kind of know their tendencies. You just have to stay ready.”
Eichel’s goal at the 12:03 mark of the second period chased Edmonton goalie Stuart Skinner, who stopped 19 of the 23 shots he faced before turning the net over to Jack Campbell, who finished with nine saves.
Game 4 is scheduled for Wednesday at Rogers Place.
Since entering the league for the 2017-18 season, Vegas has won five of the six series it’s led 2 games to 1.
So what changed Monday?
The same things need to take place Wednesday if the Golden Knights want to bring a 3-1 series lead home for Game 5 in Las Vegas on Friday.
Simple, the Golden Knights flipped the script after Foegle’s goal, and it was their forwards who were challenging defensemen, getting pucks behind them, and keeping the action in their offensive end while moving the puck and staying fluid on offense.
And when the Oilers got the puck, the Golden Knights were suffocating with back pressure, taking time and space away from Edmonton while limiting its opportunities. After scoring six goals in the first two games of the series, and producing 1.69 points per game for the Oilers, forward Leon Draisaitl was held off the scoresheet for the first time in the postseason.
The two most important things: Vegas did a good job of staying out of the penalty box, and Hill proved he could take over the crease for Brossoit.
Edmonton, which came into the game with the No. 1 power play (14 of 25, 56%), had just two power-play opportunities and scored on neither.
As for Hill, it may have been the third period from Game 2, when he replaced Brossoit, that helped him mentally prepare for his spot appearance Monday night. Hill said if the net is indeed his, nothing will change in terms of his preparation, as he’ll practice and prepare the same way he’s been doing in preparing as a backup.
Hill, who was 16-7-1 during the regular season with a .915 save percentage, will turn 27 on Thursday. He’d assumedly rather celebrate his birthday with a victory in Edmonton one night sooner.