The Vancouver Canucks lost Game 3 to the Vegas Golden Knights 3-0, giving Vegas the 2-1 series lead in this second-round matchup. The NHL postponed Game 3, which was supposed to take place on Thursday, to Saturday to protest racial injustice in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting.
The Golden Knights scored two goals in the first period to take a 2-0 lead. Alex Tuch and Zach Whitecloud were the two goal scorers. Mark Stone extended the lead to 3-0 in the third period, while Robin Lehner finished the game with a 31-save shutout.
Canucks Failed to Convert Early
The Canucks opened up Game 3 with a lot of pressure on the Golden Knights and Lehner. A little under two minutes into the first period, Jonathan Marchessault put his team down a man due to a tripping penalty. The Canucks’ power play was able to generate a few scoring chances. The only problem was, they failed to convert, and Vegas took a 2-0 lead after killing the penalty.
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Down two goals, the Canucks had a 5-on-3 power play, which they also struggled to convert on. They ended the first period outshooting Vegas 13-9 but trailed on the scoreboard. The Golden Knights took over the remainder of the game, outshooting the Canucks 25-15, giving them no chance at coming back.
Alex Tuch Is a Threat
Tuch has become the X-factor for the Golden Knights in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. His first-period goal is his fourth in his last four games and his third in this series. He now leads his team with seven goals this postseason.
This isn’t the first time Tuch has been one of the top scorers for his team in the playoffs. When Vegas went to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, he was third in scoring with 6 goals in 20 games. He’s already surpassed that through 11 games this year. The Canucks will have to find a way to stop the third-line winger, as he has dominated them with his amazing speed and shot.
Canucks’ Bottom Six Quiet Again
The Canucks’ bottom-six has struggled in this series against the Golden Knights, as they have zero points throughout the first three games. The bottom-six is expected to provide offensive help when the club’s top-six struggles to get on the board, but, so far, that has not happened.
They were able to provide secondary scoring in Games 5 and 6 against the St. Louis Blues. In Game 5, Tyler Motte contributed two big goals to allow the Canucks to take over the series. In Game 6, the bottom-six dominated, combining for seven points. It seems like they show up when the team needs them the most, but Game 4 will be the biggest test yet for the Canucks’ bottom six.
Lehner Was a Brick Wall
Every win Lehner has against the Canucks has been a shutout win throughout his career, and Game 3 was no exception. He has two career playoff shutouts in his career, and both of them were in this series. He had a 31-save shutout in Game 3 to secure the win for his team. If it wasn’t for Lehner shutting the door early on in the game, the Canucks would’ve had an early lead instead of being down.
Vegas acquired Lehner from the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline, and he has been a positive acquisition for the club. He started the playoffs by eliminating the team that traded him away, he’s 7-2 throughout the postseason, and has replaced Marc-Andre Fleury as the Golden Knights’ starting goaltender.
Canucks Are in Scary Territory After Loss
The Canucks and Golden Knights had not played since Tuesday, which gave them three days off. If the series goes to Game 7, the two teams will have played five games in seven days. This includes two sets of back-to-back games. Games 3 and 4 will be back-to-back, as will Games 6 and 7. This gives the Golden Knights the advantage as they have the series lead and have two quality starting goaltenders. Fleury will likely play in Game 4, while the Canucks will probably stick with Jacob Markstrom.
They have been riding Markstrom throughout the playoffs. Head coach Travis Green did not give his goalie a break when they played back-to-back games against the Blues, and backup Thatcher Demko has only played eight minutes of hockey this postseason. It will be interesting to see if fatigue sets in for Markstrom since this is the first playoff run of his NHL career. He has had a heavy workload all season long – through the first 48 games, he started 33 of them, while Demko only appeared in 15.
Game 4 Is Must Win
The Canucks are down 2-1, and will have to win Game 4. They struggled to convert on their opportunities in Game 3 and have to make sure that is not the case in Game 4. In Game 2, the one thing the Canucks did to secure the win was capitalizing on their early opportunities, which gave them an early 2-0 lead.
With Game 4 being the second half of back-to-back games, the Canucks will have to come out strong and take an early lead. They’re hoping to get Tyler Myers back, who is supposedly looking to return sometime next week. Game 4 will take place on Sunday at 7:30 P.M. PDT.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.