Max Pacioretty made his coach seem like a prophet when he had two goals and an assist Sunday, sparking the Vegas Golden Knights’ 5-3 win against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Second Round at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
Hours beforehand, Vegas coach Peter DeBoer lauded the forward for doing the little things that lead to offense.
“He’s a bounce or two away from, I think, really getting on a roll here again,” DeBoer said.
Lo and behold, Pacioretty gave Vegas a 1-0 lead on the power play at 9:28 of the first period, firing a wrist shot from the top of the left circle that found its way through traffic and past goalie Jacob Markstrom.
Then, with the game tied 3-3 in the third period, Pacioretty skated down the right wing on a 3-on-2. He passed across to defenseman Nate Schmidt and went to the net. Schmidt passed back across as Pacioretty tangled with Canucks defenseman Christopher Tanev, and the puck bounced off Pacioretty and slid into the net, giving Vegas a 4-3 lead at 7:02.
Finally, circling behind the net, Pacioretty gloved down the puck after it ricocheted over the crossbar. He dropped it to his stick blade and passed it onto the stick blade of center William Karlsson, who redirected it into the net from in close and gave Vegas a 5-3 lead at 8:29.
The Golden Knights can win the best-of-7 series in Game 5 on Tuesday (9:45 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
“I liked his goals tonight, because he was driving, attacking holes, stopping at the net,” DeBoer said. “Some real power-forward-type goals. He’s got that world-class shot that if he gets it a little room, he can get it off. I think he’s gotten better every night.”
Pacioretty scored 66 points (32 goals, 34 assists) in 71 games for Vegas before the NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. His points per game (0.93) was the highest of his 12-season NHL career.
He missed three of the Golden Knights’ first four games in Edmonton, the Western Conference hub city, because he was unfit to play. He had no points in his first three games, against the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round.
But he has seven points (five goals, two assists) in his past five games. Asked if Pacioretty was up to the form he had before his injury, DeBoer said, “Yeah, getting really close.”
Pacioretty said, “It’s easy to come back and join this group, because everyone here’s on the same page. You’re not really expected to come in and be the hero. We have such great depth that everyone just keeps talking about, and it’s true.
“Trying to find your game, whether it be coming back from injury or just in the broad scheme of things, you’re not really relied upon to do too much out of your comfort zone, and that’s a nice feeling going into a lineup, knowing that your teammates are working for you to get back in the rhythm of things.
“You don’t have to be a Superman out there. You just go play your game and do what you can to help the team win.”