The Vegas Golden Knights took a 3-1 series lead over the Vancouver Canucks, after a 5-3 win in Game 4 on Sunday night. This was the second game in two nights, after the Golden Knights shutout the Canucks 3-0 in Game 3.
Marc-Andre Fleury Started Game 4
Marc-Andre Fleury started his first game since Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round. He extended Vegas’ series lead to 3-0 then and has now helped them to a 3-1 series lead against the Canucks. His performance wasn’t bad for a goaltender who hasn’t played in 15 days. He stopped 28 of the 31 shots for a .903 save percentage (SV%), a little below the league average (.910) this season. He also only allowed one 5-on-5 goal, while the other two were power-play goals. Fleury has not lost a game to the Canucks since 2006.
Fleury’s agent created controversy last week after the goalie lost his starting job to Robin Lehner. His agent posted an image on Twitter, which showed a sword going through Fleury’s back with head coach Pete DeBoer’s name on it. DeBoer has started Lehner in nine of Vegas’ 12 playoff games over the 35-year-old.
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Lehner has been outstanding in the two games he has won for the Golden Knights in this round, both shutouts. He has a .921 SV% in the playoffs, while Fleury has a .893 SV%. For now, Fleury is the backup, but he could make another appearance if the series goes seven games.
Tyler Myers Returned
Tyler Myers returned to the lineup after missing seven games. He suffered a separated shoulder in Game 2 against the St. Louis Blues. Myers replaced Jordie Benn on the Canucks’ third defensive pairing and played alongside Oscar Fantenberg. The right-handed defenseman ate up minutes in Game 4, playing 22:06 minutes, second on the team behind Quinn Hughes.
However, he was among the team’s worst possession players in Game 4, finishing with a 34.21 Corsi for percentage (CF%). He was a big reason for the Golden Knights’ fifth goal after he turned the puck over while pinching in the offensive zone and then came back to the defensive zone, but lost a puck battle in front of the net to Mark Stone. Myers’ poor shift led to William Karlsson extending the lead for Vegas.
Myers’ mistakes can be chalked up to his recent return from injury. Head coach Travis Green noted that Myers hasn’t been able to practice since getting hurt, which is why he may not have been as sharp as he would have liked himself to be. Nonetheless, the head coach decided to play him more than most of his defenders. Down 3-1, Green’s club will need their big free agent signing to step up for the remainder of the series, especially if he’s playing 20-plus minutes a night.
Canucks Broke Down in the Third
The Canucks came out of the second period with a 3-2 lead. That turned around in the third period when Vegas scored three goals to take a 5-3 lead within the first 10 minutes. The Golden Knights tied the game as the Canucks struggled to clear the puck out of their zone. Nate Schmidt tied the game, and Vegas continued to apply pressure.
Vegas capitalized on poor pinches by the Canucks’ defenders to extend their lead by two goals. The pinch mentioned by Myers is one of them, and the other came from Alex Edler. With the Canucks pressuring to retake the lead, Edler was caught in the offensive zone as the Golden Knights broke out and set up Max Pacioretty’s second goal of the night. His turnover hurt his club, as they started to create momentum in the offensive zone before the goal against.
Pacioretty the Canucks Killer
Pacioretty has been an offensive threat throughout this series. He has found his game after missing the play-in round and Game 2 against the Blackhawks because of a minor injury. He opened up the scoring in Game 4 with a power-play goal and then scored the game-winning goal in the third period. He had two goals and an assist on the night and has four goals and five points against the Canucks this postseason.
Pacioretty has been stellar against the Canucks throughout his career. He has 18 goals and 29 points in 26 regular season and playoff games and has continued to find ways to terrorize the Canucks in this series.
Canucks’ Bright Spots
Although the Canucks lost Game 4, there are a few bright spots for the club. J.T. Miller hasn’t scored a goal all series, but he provided an offensive boost by assisting on all three goals scored by his team on Sunday night. Elias Pettersson has been the best Canucks player against the Golden Knights and continued to perform, scoring a power-play goal in the first period.
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Brock Boeser bounced back in Game 4 after a poor Game 3. Although he finished the game without a point, he created a lot of scoring opportunities for his team. Bo Horvat regained the league lead in goals with his ninth. Finally, Quinn Hughes looked like himself, finishing the night with two assists. The 20-year-old defenceman has struggled to generate scoring chances for his team against Vegas, but that was not the case in Game 4.
Although the Canucks are down 3-1, they have some fight left in them. The team’s core is showing that they won’t go down easily by coming out and generating offense in Game 4. All they need is a little help from their bottom-six forwards, who still have not registered a point in this series.
Canucks Can Comeback
It hasn’t been that long since a team has come back from a 3-1 series deficit, though it is rare. Last season, the San Jose Sharks rallied to beat the Golden Knights in the first round after being down 3-1. It’ll be difficult for the Canucks to come back against an elite team such as the Golden Knights, but it’s not impossible. Game 5 is on Tuesday at 6:45 P.M. PT.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.