After two periods in Winnipeg, the Golden Knights were in complete control. It appeared as though the Western Conference’s #1 seed was ready to lock it down and coast to the finish line in Game 3, securing their first series lead along the way. That is not what happened.
From the number of screenshots of heart rate warnings on Apple Watches I’ve been sent since the game ended, I know the final 44 minutes of that game were excruciating for Golden Knights fans. Despite the positive outcome, I’d imagine most would have preferred a less exciting 3rd period as the team headed down an all too familiar path.
The head coach disagrees though.
In the long run it might be a better way to win to be honest with you. We’ll see about that but yeah we found a way. -Bruce Cassidy
It’s not just a gut feeling either, he has his reasons.
More minutes on them and it’s a little bit demoralizing when you come back that far and then you don’t get it done. They’re already down a D-man and there’s a lot of stress on their D whereas we’re a little more balanced in our minutes. -Cassidy
Looking at the scoresheet, it’s clear to see he has a point. Five Jets skaters topped the 30-minute mark including three defensemen. After losing their superstar Josh Morrissey early in the 1st period, the Jets were forced to rotate through just five D-men the rest of the way. Neal Pionk, who averages 22 minutes a game and has not hit that mark in either of the first two games of the series, spent nearly half of the 84-minute game on the ice, logging a career-high 41:08. Meanwhile, on the Vegas bench, just one player topped 30 minutes, Pietrangelo at 34:30.
Maybe it builds something in us where we’re like ‘hey, even though we didn’t have our best, we found a way to win.’ For us, if we get in this situation again the guys will know they’re never out of it. -Cassidy
The Golden Knights have been through this before. Early in the season, Vegas blew leads in eight of their first 19 games. They came back to win five of those eight. Then, later in the year, VGK had a tough time closing games out as they allowed seven goals against the empty net in a span of fewer than 30 games.
You live and you learn, right? Sometimes things happen and maybe you’ve had success in those situations and then you take a step back and kind of look at what you can do better to shut opponents down. -Alex Pietrangelo
Tough on the fans or not, Game 3 in Winnipeg could easily go down as one of the most important games of the playoffs for the Golden Knights. While getting the preferred outcome, they were delivered a healthy reminder of just how crazy games in the postseason can be.
Hopefully they’re right. We don’t need people being on the verge of heart attacks for nothing.