Marchessault, Golden Knights overwhelm Avalanche in Game 4

The Golden Knights are just absolutely overwhelming the Avalanche, with Game 4 maybe being their masterpiece. The Golden Knights won Game 4 by a score of 5-1, tying their series vs. the Avalanche at 2-2.

Vegas is on fire, and the Avs have a fire to put out. Let’s dive into a stunning Game 4 in a captivating Second Round series.

Golden Knights dominate Avalanche in Game 4

After the Golden Knights broke through to beat the Avs in Game 3, Jared Bednar fumed about his team’s efforts. That included top players.

“The easy answer is for five periods straight they’ve been far more competitive than we have,” Bednar said after a 3-2 Game 3 loss via Adam Hill of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “To dissect the game any more than that is a waste of time.”

Considering how the Golden Knights ran rampant against the Avalanche in Game 4, should we amend that to seven periods in a row? Eight?

Earlier in this series, the efforts were there for Vegas’ top two lines, but the production was not.

Things might be even more concerning for the Avs, including Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen. (And, by extension, explosive defensemen such as Cale Makar.)

After all, Colorado did get an early lead in this one … from one of the few forwards who are still pretty hot, Brandon Saad.

Marchessault, Vegas take over

Things have definitely been looking up for the Golden Knights’ top two lines.

Most obviously, Jonathan Marchessault is surging from ice-cold (one goal on 33 SOG through Game 2) to red-hot. Marchessault scored a big goal in Game 3, but was just on fire in Game 4, collecting his first career playoff hat trick.

It must be refreshing for Marchessault – William KarlssonReilly Smith to make such a difference vs. such a dangerous opponent. They’re not alone in those efforts, either.

The “other” Vegas top line is looking strong, too. Philipp Grubauer‘s been tough to beat, but Max Pacioretty is the type of sniper who can occasionally make you look more human. The Golden Knights continue to look like a different team with “Patches” back in the lineup.

Beyond those top players delivering, the Golden Knights were just relentless, controlling play for most of Game 4, and generally befuddled the typically-unflappable Avalanche.

Time for some adjustments?

Remember when it didn’t seem like it even mattered if Nazem Kadri will successfully appeal his eight-game suspension? Mysteriously, that topic bubbled back up on Sunday.

Truly, it’s jarring to see Colorado play like this. In general and in Game 4 most of all, the Golden Knights have been making the Avalanche look like … well, a lot like many overmatched opponents vs. the Avs.

It inspires plenty of questions, and presents challenges for Nathan MacKinnon, other top stars, and also Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar.

As Jack Han discussed in an interesting thread, maybe there needs to be structural tweaks to limit rush chances, where Vegas has made a killing?

Hockey fans and media have been buzzing about Golden Knights – Avalanche as a series for quite some time for good reason.

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Truly, it’s the sort of battle of heavyweights we don’t always get to enjoy in the upset-laden Stanley Cup Playoffs. What happens if you’re vintage Mike Tyson, but now you face someone who can change your plans by hitting you in the mouth?

Maybe the Avalanche can just shake off Game 4 by getting a clean slate, and a change of scenery, vs. the Golden Knights in Game 5 on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN)?

As this series began, it seemed like Colorado might steamroll everyone, Vegas included. Now the tide has turned, as the Avs were outclassed — even before Game 4. Can they adjust and respond? Whatever the answer may be, it sure seems like this series will keep treating hockey fans to great drama and excitement.

AVALANCHE VS. GOLDEN KNIGHTS (Series tied 2-2) – series livestream link

Game 1: Avalanche 7, Golden Knights 1
Game 2: Avalanche 3, Golden Knights 2 (OT)
Game 3: Golden Knights 3, Avalanche 2
Game 4: Golden Knights 5, Avalanche 1
Game 5: Tues. June 8: Golden Knights at Avalanche, 9 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 6: Thurs. June 10: Avalanche at Golden Knights TBD
*Game 7: Sat. June 12: Golden Knights at Avalanche TBD

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Will Golden Knights’ top two lines shine vs. Avalanche in Game 3?

Without checking the Golden Knights’ stats page, who would you guess is the team’s playoff points leader heading into Game 3 vs. the Avalanche?

Considering the time Max Pacioretty‘s missed, you might cancel him out. And maybe realizing how much Pacioretty clicks with Mark Stone, maybe you’d guess Stone isn’t quite there. But even then, who would you guess.

(Buzzer sounds.)

Time’s up. The answer is … um, Mattias Janmark, with six points in eight playoff games. Hmm.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 10 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Truly, kudos to Janmark, whose six playoff points include a hat trick from Game 7 vs. the Wild, highlighted by a bold first goal considering the do-or-die context:

That’s impressive stuff. But it’s still a little off-putting for the Golden Knights, especially considering that Ryan Graves’ Game 1 hit kept Janmark out of Game 2 vs. the Avalanche, and possibly beyond.

All due respect to Janmark and other supporting cast members, but the Golden Knights could really use more from their top two lines, starting with Game 3 vs. the Avalanche on Friday (10 P.M. ET; NBCSN).

Pacioretty’s return has helped, but Stone needs to throw in more

Whether he’s hobbled by a lower-body injury or not, Max Pacioretty’s made an impact since returning to the Vegas lineup. After their Game 7 win, Peter DeBoer spoke about the emotional impact of Pacioretty’s return.

Players are judged for their production (and wins) most of all, and Pacioretty’s played as well as anyone can expect. So far, he’s a goal and two assists for a point-per-game in three playoff contests.

He’s creating a volume of chances, too, with nine shots on goal (or three per game).

So there’s hope there, and maybe that could hoist up Mark Stone, who’s currently mired in a four-game pointless slump. (Chandler Stephenson‘s offense comes and goes, especially when his wingers are hit-or-miss.)

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Of course, before Stone – Pacioretty developed dynamic duo chemistry, the Golden Knights were propelled by the trio of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith.

Heading into Game 3 vs. the Avalanche, the effort’s at least been there for the Golden Knights’ original top line. That manifested itself most obviously when Reilly Smith’s hard work resulted in a key goal in Game 2.

Some more quality with the quantity from Karlsson, Smith, Marchessault?

Maybe Smith, Marchessault, and Karlsson need to continue to hammer away at finding the right balance between quantity and quality?

It’s easy to beat up on Vegas for all of that volume, but sometimes it all works. (Carolina finally got a win vs. Tampa Bay in their Game 3, for example.) If nothing else, if you’re causing havoc in the other end, you might keep the puck away from top Avs threats such as Nathan MacKinnon.

(At least, if you’re careful not to get burned by lightning-fast Avs in transition.)

But maybe a bit more tweaking is in order. Take Jonathan Marchessault, for instance.

It’s a mix of good and bad news with Marchessault. The potentially explosive forward only has three points (1G, 2A) through nine playoff games; however, he has an assist in each of the past two contests.

And he’s generating chances. Marchessault’s fired 33 SOG in nine playoff games, including six SOG in two vs. Colorado. Ultimately, he hasn’t scored a goal since Game 2 vs. the Wild, so the VGK need more — particularly against the lethal Avs attack.

A chance to be underdogs again

Truthfully, it’s still kind of stunning that the Golden Knights are a legitimate contender in year four. Maybe most jarring is that they’ve probably gotten fairly used to it.

Even before the Avalanche built a 2-0 series lead heading into Game 3, the Golden Knights were somewhere between mild to considerable underdogs.

While this isn’t exactly a comfortable situation, it’s also a feeling that Marchessault’s line, in particular, can recall. So maybe that’s why he seemed to project confidence, as The Athletic’s Jesse Granger reports (sub required).

“This is the first time in four years that it feels like the first year,” Marchessault said. “Right now we’re in an underdog situation and we kind of have nothing to lose, really. The best team in the league is Colorado. So for us, we’re just trying to get there, try to surprise them, and take it one game at a time.”

Is everyone buying Marchessault’s attempt to cast the Golden Knights as “misfits” again? It may only really matter if they believe it.

AVALANCHE VS. GOLDEN KNIGHTS (COL leads 2-0) – series livestream link

Game 1: Avalanche 7, Golden Knights 1
Game 2: Avalanche 3, Golden Knights 2 (OT)
Game 3: Fri. June 4: Avalanche at Golden Knights, 10 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 4: Sun. June 6: Avalanche at Golden Knights, 8:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
*Game 5: Tues. June 8: Golden Knights at Avalanche TBD
*Game 6: Thurs. June 10: Avalanche at Golden Knights TBD
*Game 7: Sat. June 12: Golden Knights at Avalanche TBD

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL Playoff Buzzer: Goalies make difference in Game 2 action

  • The Penguins protected their Game 2 lead vs. the Islanders to tie the series 1-1.
  • In another nasty game, the Lightning beat the Panthers once again, taking a 2-0 series lead.
  • The Golden Knights looked like they were in trouble, but they won Game 2 vs. the Wild to tie the series 1-1.
  • There’s even more 2021 Stanley Cup Playoff action on Wednesday: four postseason games.

Game 2: Penguins 2, Islanders 1 (series tied 1-1)

Last time, Pittsburgh couldn’t make a 2-1 lead against the Islanders last through the third period. In Game 2, the Penguins locked down the Islanders to tie up the series. Semyon Varlamov shook off a bad 1-0 goal allowed to Bryan Rust; then the Penguins shook off a very bad Rust penalty late in the third. As tight-checking as this one was, there were plenty of hits and shots. It’s now a “best-of-five” series between the Islanders and Penguins.

Game 2: Lightning 3, Panthers 1 (TBL leads series 2-0)

On one hand, Florida’s frequently looked capable of hanging with Tampa Bay. On the other hand, the Lightning slowed down the often-frenzied Panthers attack more often in Game 2, and now the defending champs have a 2-0 series lead. That mixture of skill and hard feelings has made the first-ever Florida playoff series a blast, but Joel Quenneville needs to find answers or it will be short-but-citrusy-sweet.

Game 2: Golden Knights 3, Wild 1 (series tied 1-1)

The Wild dominated the first period of Game 2 against the Golden Knights, but couldn’t beat Marc-Andre Fleury. They ended up scoring their only goal of the contest in the second period, and that lead only lasted 18 seconds. Jonathan Marchessault tied it up, and Alex Tuch collected two goals to gain a huge win for Vegas.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 First Round schedule, TV info]

Three Stars for Game 2 action from Tuesday in the NHL

1. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

Really, you could make an argument for any of the three Game 2-winning goals in the NHL on Tuesday. Jarry actually ended up with slightly more saves, and if you want to count non-playoff games, Thatcher Demko was excellent in a contest that will be quickly forgotten.

But, really, it’s got to be Marc-Andre Fleury.

MAF ended up with 34 saves in driving the Golden Knights’ Game 2 win over the Wild. After only allowing a single goal but losing, it had to be satisfying to win here.

Kind of, well, wild that there was some thought to starting Robin Lehner, eh?

2. Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins

On a Tuesday of Game 2 NHL playoff action, there were some interesting goalie debates. Should the Panthers have gone with Chris Driedger instead of Sergei Bobrovsky, as they did? After winning, were the Islanders wise to shift from Ilya Sorokin to Semyon Varlamov?

Call it proactive or reactive, but the Islanders and Panthers both lost after making changes. The Penguins stuck with Tristan Jarry, and he delivered in a Game 2 where the Islanders didn’t prove him with much margin for error.

Beating up Jarry too much for Josh Bailey‘s beauty of backhander seems a little silly. Either way, that was the only goal he allowed, and the Penguins can probably chill about their goalie situation.

At least until their next loss.

3. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

By Natural Stat Trick’s count, the Panthers generated 13 high-danger chances at 5-on-5, while the Lightning generated five in Game 2. Four of the Lightning’s five high-danger chances happened in the first period.

For much of Game 2, the Lightning decided to lean on their defense — and very much Vasilevskiy — to protect their lead over the Panthers. It worked, as Vasilevskiy stopped 32 shots, only yielding a nice Mason Marchment one-timer goal.

If you’re sick of all of the Game 2 goalie talk regarding the three stars for Tuesday in the NHL, well … sorry? Ondrej Palat could be a solid alternate choice, though. He generated an assist and the game-winning goal.

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Stats of the night for Tuesday in the NHL

  • Mason Marchment and Bryan Marchment continue the father connection.

WEDNESDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 3: Capitals at Bruins (Series tied 1-1), 6:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 2: Predators at Hurricanes (CAR leads 1-0), 8 p.m. ET – CNBC (livestream)
Game 1: Jets at Oilers, 9 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 2: Blues at Avalanche (COL leads 1-0), 10:30 p.m. ET – CNBC (livestream)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Marc-Andre Fleury wills Golden Knights past Wild in Game 2

The Wild made life difficult for the Golden Knights — especially early on — in Game 2.

Ultimately, Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant once again, and this time he was rewarded with a win. The Golden Knights squeaked out a narrow Game 2 win over the Wild, tying their First Round series 1-1. Vegas ended up winning 3-1, with that insurance goal coming late enough that it felt a lot like a one-goal game.

Marc-Andre Fleury brilliant in Golden Knights – Wild Game 2

Thanks to some brilliant saves, Marc-Andre Fleury enjoyed a more flamboyant Game 1 performance than Cam Talbot. But Talbot was the one who nabbed that overtime win.

You might call Game 2 of Golden Knights – Wild a bit of a role reversal. The Wild dominated in the first period of Game 2, in particular, generating a 17-10 shots on goal advantage over the Golden Knights. Even the shots on goal don’t totally tell the story.

Simply put, Fleury was brilliant once again.

During the second period, Matt Dumba finally broke through to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead.

If that lead lasted, the already-frustrated Golden Knights might have started to feel truly desperate against the Wild in Game 2. Instead, that goal may have finally scared Vegas out of its stupor.

Eighteen seconds after that Dumba goal, Jonathan Marchessault beat Cam Talbot on a great shot. It ended Talbot’s shutout streak at 95:45.

Less than five minutes later, Alex Tuch gave the Golden Knights their first lead of this First Rounds series vs. the Wild. Late in the third, Tuch scored another goal to ice the game.

Kaprizov contained

Generally speaking, the Wild have shown what the regular-season series suggested: they give the Golden Knights headaches, including in Game 2.

But maybe that tight-checking style has its disadvantages — at least for the near-certain Calder Trophy winner. For the second consecutive contest, Kirill Kaprizov failed to score a point. It’s certainly nothing to panic about, but it’s fair to wonder if Minnesota should make some adjustments.

To add insult to injury, Kaprizov took a penalty with about 90 seconds left, hurting the Wild’s chances of a comeback.

Then again, maybe it’s worth it? Both in Game 1 and Game 2, the Wild made things difficult for the Golden Knights. This could be a long series, especially if Max Pacioretty can’t eventually play, or is far from 100 percent.

Either way, Marc-Andre Fleury’s been tremendous for a team he seemed like he would no longer even be playing for any longer in 2020-21. Hockey: it’s about as unpredictable as its goalies.

GOLDEN KNIGHTS VS. WILD (Series tied 1-1) – series livestream link

Game 1: Wild 1, Golden Knights 0 (OT)
Tuesday, May 18: Golden Knights 3, Wild 1
Thursday, May 20: Golden Knights at Wild, 9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Saturday, May 22: Golden Knights at Wild, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
Monday, May 24: Wild at Golden Knights TBD
*Wednesday, May 26: Golden Knights at Wild TBD
*Friday, May 28: Golden Knights TBD

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.