After a couple of days spearheading the NHL’s break from Stanley Cup playoff action to bring the issue of racism to the forefront — following the lead of the NBA and WNBA, MLS and MLB — the Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks will change their focus to on-ice play.
In between their Game 2 clash and dropping the puck for their Game 3 tilt on Saturday night in Edmonton, both clubs were front and center in the players’ push to join the movement.
Notable was Vegas Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves, who boldly has become a face of the NHL’s movement and spoke with a large number of fellow players in Edmonton standing at his side and behind him.
“I’d go to war with these guys,” said Reaves, who is black and hails from Winnipeg. “I hate their guts on the ice, but I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. This statement that they’ve made today is something that’s going to last.”
Back on the front burner, though, is Saturday’s Western Conference semifinal series meeting. After being blown out 5-0 in the opener, the Canucks evened the series with an impressive 5-2 victory on Tuesday night, putting the pressure back on the heavily favored Golden Knights.
It marked the first time in franchise history that Vegas lost in regulation to Vancouver. Vegas dominated Game 1 in convincing fashion, and plenty of video bench shots showed Golden Knights players laughing and taunting the Canucks during the contest.
Vancouver flipped the script in Game 2, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first 11 minutes and never looked back.
“We wanted to make a statement, and obviously it was a lot quieter over there (on the Vegas bench), and we’re going to try and keep it that way,” said Bo Horvat. “We had a great response. Everybody was selling out, everybody was blocking shots, doing whatever it took to win.”
Vancouver finished with a franchise-record 40 blocked shots to just 15 for Vegas.
“I know it’s not fun to see guys with ice packs after games, people blocking shots, but as a goalie, I appreciate that,” Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom said. “Hopefully, they’re going to keep blocking shots, helping me out.”
Vegas forward Alex Tuch said his team has to adjust.
“They’re a good shot-blocking team. We knew it before the series even started. They block a lot of shots. They put their bodies on the line,” Tuch said. “We decided to try and shoot through them instead of around them and make the simple play.”
Vegas, which had to deal with the distraction of Marc-Andre Fleury’s agent Allan Walsh tweeting out a drawing of Fleury having a sword with coach Pete DeBoer’s name on the handle stuck in his back before Game 1, had to deal with another social media misstep after the Game 2 loss.
Center Jonathan Marchessault had a profane response to a post on his Instagram page that accused him of diving to draw penalties. Marchessault later took down the conversation but not before a screenshot of the dialogue made its way around Twitter.
“It got the best of me, but there’s no excuse,” Marchessault said. “I sincerely apologize.”
DeBoer didn’t tip his hand on who would start in goal for Game 3, Robin Lehner or Fleury. Lehner had a 26-save shutout in Game 1 but was on the losing end in Tuesday’s contest.
“Nothing’s changed in my mind that both guys are going to play here,” DeBoer said.
–Field Level Media