3 takeaways from Golden Knights’ Game 2 victory over Stars
The Golden Knights shook up their forward lines before Game 2 of the Western Conference Final, and the new look provided a spark in a 3-0 victory over the Dallas Stars.
For two days, Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer insisted his team wasn’t in an offensive slump. So what did he do before Game 2 on Tuesday?
He changed two of the forward lines.
The new look provided the necessary spark and helped the Knights even the best-of-seven Western Conference Final with a 3-0 victory over the Dallas Stars at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta.
“The reason for juggling the lines was I didn’t like how we played and then we juggled them last game, and in the third period I thought we started to find our game,” DeBoer said. “We really went with some of the combinations that I liked in the third period the other night and it carried over into tonight.”
The Knights broke up leading scorers Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone to help counter Dallas’ balanced lineup that features its leading goal scorer (Denis Gurianov) on the fourth line.
Stone skated at right wing with Chandler Stephenson at center and Alex Tuch on the left wing. Pacioretty was reunited with close friend Paul Stastny, who centered the line with Nicolas Roy on the right.
Pacioretty found Stastny alone in front of the net for the Knights’ first goal at 4:53 of the second period. Stastny also added an assist on William Karlsson’s power-play goal in the second.
Stephenson was briefly on the ice with Tomas Nosek and Roy, and they combined for a beautiful passing play during a three-on-one that Nosek capped for a 3-0 lead.
The Knights had 62.5 percent of the shot attempts when the Tuch-Stephenson-Stone line was on the ice.
The Pacioretty-Stastny-Roy unit was responsible for 80.2 percent of the expected goals share to go with Stastny’s goal and also had a 4-1 edge in high-danger chances at five-on-five, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
“I think that’s going to be a part of our group,” DeBoer said. “I think we’ve got interchangeable parts and guys that can go into different holes and play with different people. Tonight it worked. I liked the feel back there. We got contributions from everybody. We got to our game early and stuck with it.”
Here are three more takeaways from the win:
Pacioretty and Stastny have 1,280 career points combined in the regular season. Roy has 10. And the youngster had a tough first period with his new linemates.
Roy missed on two passes when nobody was home at the point and the puck cleared the zone. His wrist shot from the slot was turned away on a glove save by Dallas goalie Anton Khudobin about six minutes in and whiffed on a rebound in front during the final seconds of the period.
But Roy was the trailer during a three-on-one and helped start the pretty tic-tac-toe sequence for Nosek’s goal. He finished with a plus-2 rating, five hits and also was 2-for-2 on faceoffs.
“The last couple games it was more like a grinding game. A lot of speed, hard on the forecheck,” Roy said. “Today was more possession, try to make plays. But I don’t want to change my game wherever I play. I think we had really good chemistry today. I just tried to make some space for these guys. They’ve been in the league for a long time and they’re really good.”
Defenseman Brayden McNabb snapped his streak of 10 straight games without a penalty when took two minors in Game 2. All was forgotten, though, because of his pass on the first goal.
McNabb jumped into the play to create a four-on-three advantage, and Roy left the puck waiting for him just inside the blue line. Dallas defenders John Klingberg and Mattias Janmark left a seam for McNabb to find Pacioretty at the bottom of the right circle.
Pacioretty waited for defenseman Joel Hanley to slide past and hit Stastny for the redirection past Khudobin.
“Great goal. It starts with Nic Roy through the neutral zone. Drives them deep, delays, finds a late man, which really breaks down their coverage,” DeBoer said. “And (Stastny) hung around the net. Great play by (Pacioretty) outwaiting the defenseman. Just a good, solid hockey play. But, like I said, we’ve got a skilled group.”
The Knights’ power play came through when Karlsson added to the lead 3:31 after Stastny’s opener. But it could have had more.
Defenseman Shea Theodore sent a wrist shot through a double screen from Pacioretty and Reilly Smith to beat Khudobin at 9:49 of the second. However, the Stars successfully challenged for goaltender interference after Pacioretty made contact with Khudobin in the crease.
The Knights had been 1-for-15 on the power play before Karlsson’s goal. They finished the game 1-for-6 with the man advantage.
“We made some good plays,” DeBoer said. “We’re a good offensive team. I think that’s part of our identity. Again, I knew we would score if we played our game, and we did.”
Contact David Schoen at [email protected] or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.