After giving away a third-period lead in Game 4, the Vancouver Canucks will try to keep their season alive when they face the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals on Tuesday at Edmonton.
Vegas holds a 3-1 lead in the series after the 5-3 victory in Game 4. Trailing 3-2 going into the final period, the Golden Knights scored three unanswered goals (all within the span of 5:37) to seal the comeback win.
The Canucks were down 2-1 after the first period but scored twice in the second frame to give the series its first lead change within a game.
“We put ourselves in a hell of a spot to win a hockey game (and) get right back into the series,” Canucks forward J.T. Miller told reporters. “… That’s a dream spot to be in in the playoffs, to tie a series 2-2 and be up by one going into the third, and they had too many good looks.”
It was yet another strong finish for the Golden Knights, who have outscored opponents 17-5 in third periods during the 2020 playoffs. Defenseman Nate Schmidt said his team was particularly motivated after surrendering the lead in the second.
“When we have a tough period … our guys aren’t happy with our performance, and that shows in a positive way,” Schmidt said. “It shows that we have to be better and our group is really good at recognizing when we’re not getting everyone involved in the game.”
Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 28 of 31 shots Sunday to improve to 3-0-0 this postseason. With Games 3 and 4 falling on consecutive nights, Fleury got the start in place of Robin Lehner, who shut out Vancouver in Game 3.
Though having two quality goaltenders gives Vegas some flexibility, Lehner will likely be back in net in Game 5. Lehner has started nine of the Golden Knights’ 12 games in the 2020 playoffs, posting a 7-2-0 record with a 2.08 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage.
Jacob Markstrom is expected to start again for the Canucks in Game 5, after playing on back-to-back nights in the previous two games. Markstrom has only a .894 save percentage and a 3.75 GAA in the series.
Markstrom hasn’t been helped by the Canucks’ penalty kill during the series. Vegas has scored a power-play goal in each of the four games.
The Canucks were 2 of 5 on their own power play chances in Game 4, igniting what had been a struggling special teams unit. Over their six previous playoff games, Vancouver was just 2-for-23 with the extra attacker.
Elias Pettersson scored one of Vancouver’s power-play goals in Game 4, giving the star forward six goals in the 2020 playoffs. Pettersson has a team-high 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) over 14 postseason games.
Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore leads all skaters in the series with seven points, all assists.
Game 5 might simply come down to which teams scores first. Vegas is a perfect 8-0-0 this postseason when scoring the game’s opening goal.
The Canucks have come back from 3-1 deficits to win three playoff series in their history, the most of any NHL team. The most recent was in the 2003 first round against the St. Louis Blues.
If necessary, Game 6 is scheduled for Thursday in Edmonton, with the Canucks as the designated home team.
–Field Level Media