Both Vegas Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer and St. Louis Blues coach Craig Berube will be looking for better starts when their teams face off Thursday in the second game of the Western Conference round-robin Stanley Cup qualifiers at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
Vegas (1-0-0, 2 points) used four third-period goals to overcome a 3-1 deficit and defeat the Dallas Stars 5-3 in their opener on Monday. Meanwhile St. Louis (0-1-0, 0 points) lost to the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 on Nazem Kadri’s power-play goal with 0.1 seconds remaining on Sunday.
William Carrier scored the game-winner for Vegas with 5:13 left via a nifty between-the-legs shot near the right post on a puck that had caromed to him off the end board. The score was initially waved off for goalie interference because Carrier earlier had contact with goalie Ben Bishop near the crease, but DeBoer challenged the call. After a video review, it was ruled to be incidental contact.
Vegas trailed by two goals heading into the third period before turning up the pressure and outshooting the Stars 16-6.
“It wasn’t X’s and O’s, there was no magical system to fix what was wrong,” said DeBoer, who began juggling line combinations in the second period. “They were the hungrier team for 40 minutes. They were quicker to the pucks. They were more physical. They were hungrier is the best way I could describe it. Until we fixed that, we weren’t going to have any success.
“That’s where it started. We got some momentum and we played like we should have for 60 minutes.”
Vegas forward Mark Stone added, “I think we were just too relaxed. We got that jolt of energy by changing things up and getting different looks. We found our game in the third period.”
The Golden Knights are 16-5-1 since DeBoer took over for Gerard Gallant, including 12-2-0 over their past 14 games.
“(The win) was important for a bunch of reasons,” DeBoer said. “Those were two important points for seeding purposes. It gives us a chance to compete for the first seed. The way we won was good because most nights you only play 20 minutes, you won’t win. We learned a lesson.”
St. Louis lost to the Avalanche despite a brilliant 36-save performance by Jordan Binnington.
“In the first period we were just on our heels, didn’t make enough plays, we gave the puck back too much,” Berube said. “We played pretty well in the second and third. I’m pretty pleased with a lot of it, but we have to get better.”
Berube hinted that the defending Stanley Cup champions may have lacked some intensity at the start because the round robin is for top-four seeding purposes and not a win-or-go-home scenario like the eight qualifying series.
“You know, I’ve played the game, too,” Berube said. “I do understand that next week is when the real thing starts. The round robin, it is important for positioning a little bit and some home ice a little bit, but it’s not hugely important. These games aren’t played in your building or your opposition’s building. I’m sure it’s in the back of our players’ minds, but at some time as a coach, I’ve got to make sure I’ve got these guys working to get better and better as we go along here. There’s definitely another level or two we can get to.”
Vegas will once again be without leading scorer Max Pacioretty (undisclosed injury). St. Louis will be minus forward Ivan Barbashev, who flew home to be with his wife Ksenia for the birth of their first child.
–Field Level Media