The Vegas Golden Knights learned clear lessons in their 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks in Game 2 of the Western Conference Second Round on Tuesday: start on time, tighten coverage, find shooting lanes.
The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1. Game 3 is Thursday (9:45 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS). All games are at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the West hub city.
“We were a little late, a little slow, a little soft,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “You get what you deserve in this league a lot of nights.”
After a 5-0 win in Game 1 on Sunday, DeBoer warned the Golden Knights to expect a response from the Canucks. Still, forward Alex Tuch said, they decided to be surprised instead of prepared.
Vancouver took a 2-0 lead on a goal by Tyler Toffoli at 1:29 of the first period and a power-play goal by Bo Horvat at 10:59 of the first.
“We knew it was coming, and for whatever reason, we didn’t look like we were ready for it,” DeBoer said. “It’s all we’ve talked about, sthat’s a little bit disappointing, spotting them the two goals.”
The Golden Knights led in shots 22-7 and in shot attempts 50-11 in the second period. But after Tuch cut the Canucks lead to 2-1 at 6:34, Elias Pettersson made it 3-1 at 18:35. Horvat made it 4-1 18 seconds into the third.
“We’re dominating the game, but you can’t get down 2-0 in this league,” Golden Knights forward Mark Stone said. “You use way too much energy trying to come back.”
At least two Vancouver goals were the result of poor reads or breakdowns by Vegas. Toffoli opened the scoring at the side of the net after Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez left him alone. Horvat scored his second goal when he was left alone near the net. No Vegas player was below the face-off dots.
“We’ve got to make a lot of guys’ lives a lot harder,” Stone said. “Those guys had it easy tonight.”
Pettersson’s goal came on a highlight-reel deke of goalie Robin Lehner but also off a face-off play. The Canucks won 63 percent of the face-offs in Game 1 and 66 percent in Game 2, after ranking second in the NHL in the regular season at 54.0 percent (Philadelphia Flyers, 54.6 percent).
“They’re the best face-off team in the League, so we’re not going to fix that in this series,” DeBoer said. “I think what we can fix is, make sure our coverage is better and not give them anything off the ones they win. I think that was our mistake tonight.”
The Golden Knights had 40 of their shot attempts blocked and said they need to adjust their approach in Game 3.
“I don’t think we were making the smartest decisions with the puck,” Tuch said. “Forwards, defensemen, no matter who was shooting it, instead of changing the angle or moving your feet a little bit, I thought we were just trying to get pucks through them.
“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. We decided to try to shoot through them instead of around them and make the simple play.”