But this time they lost in much better fashion than Game 1, scoring three goals and keeping the game close through the first two periods. Patrick Kane had an assist on all three Chicago goals.
Both teams had players miss the game late with Vegas winger Max Pacioretty (unfit to play) and Chicago defenseman Adam Boqvist (scratched). Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton replaced Boqvist with Lucas Carlsson, who played 10 minutes and allowed two goals, so it’s unlikely he’ll see more time in this series.
Paul Stastny gave Vegas a 1-0 lead at 10:44 when he made the Blackhawks pay for a rather poor display of defense.
Kirby Dach left his man all alone and Carlsson needed to stop the pass. Corey Crawford gets a piece of that puck but not all of it. It was an all around bad play. On another note, the line of Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault and Stastny has been a nightmare all series and it may continue.
The Golden Knights went up 2-0 with less than five minutes remaining in the first when Tomas Nosek shot the puck past Crawford. Nosek was in the lineup for the first time this series, replacing Pacioretty.
Like Smith’s first goal in Game 1, Crawford got some of the shot but not all of it. It was a bad goal to let up and put the Blackhawks down 2-0 after the first.
But the story of the first period was the Blackhawks’ lack of offense, as players like Dylan Strome wouldn’t shoot in an ideal situation and others like Brandon Saad couldn’t find a way to finish a play and Kane hit a post on the power play.
How does Strome not shoot here?— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) August 13, 2020
Ended up dropping it all the way to the point, then DeBrincat turned it over, Hawks didn't get a chance from the rush and Vegas scored less than a minute later. pic.twitter.com/qdK5j5JZsP
All of this after Robin Lehner appeared to be injured after he made a save with his glove-side wrist against Alex DeBrincat. The Blackhawks should have put more pucks on net, especially on that side after that and couldn’t find a way to do it. They had just seven shots on net in the first period and zero high-danger chances.
The Blackhawks then did the thing they couldn’t in the first period, and shot the puck in the second, out-attempting Vegas 23-21 in the middle frame and outshooting them 11-10 at all strengths.
Chicago also likely had its best period of the postseason in the second period, with three goals and only allowing one.
First, Dach scored his first career playoff goal on a rebound to make up for his part in the first goal of the game. The Blackhawks reverted to what worked against Edmonton with defensemen Calvin de Haan putting the puck on net. Dach found himself alone with time on the rebound to put it in.
Vegas took a penalty more than halfway into the period, and the Blackhawks capitalized after they failed to do so in the first period. Dominik Kubalik got a great (though accidental) screen from Alec Martinez when he sniped the puck past Lehner at 12:07.
Only 37 seconds later, David Kampf, committed a momentum-killing hooking penalty but Chicago killed it off.
But a Mark Stone goal followed at 17:20 when he was left all alone by the Slater Koekkoek and Olli Maatta pairing and the puck took a bad bounce off Crawford and right to Stone for the rebound to give Vegas the lead.
But the Blackhawks stayed hungry and tied it again with 13 seconds remaining with a beautiful play from Alex DeBrincat, Strome and Kane.
Strome didn’t make the same mistake twice and put the puck on — or rather in — net. But that play doesn’t occur without the passing from Kane and DeBrincat, and it swung the momentum back toward the Blackhawks before the third period.
The three points in the second period moved Kane to sole possession of third in franchise history with 130 playoff points. Not bad for 31 years old. Stan Mikita (150) and Denis Savard (145) are the only two with more. Kane needed to show up in this series and he did.
After two periods where he could have been better, Crawford made the difference in the third period. The Golden Knights kept possession throughout much of the frame but he kept the puck out with 16 saves, including five high-danger chances.
The Blackhawks had just a 28.57 percent Corsi For and 27.27 percent shot share in the third period. A lot of shots were faced by Crawford, but Lehner didn’t have the same workload. Crawford made 35 saves in the game and had a 1.000 low-danger save percentage, up from Game 1.
The teams traded shots and crossbar hits in overtime until Smith scored his third goal of the series to win the game.
The Blackhawks defensemen need to shoot more and get to high-danger areas. The shooters known for shooting need to continue to produce, but young players like Dach and Strome can absolutely make a difference.
The Blackhawks also need to show the same high-danger control they did in Game 1, as they allowed 15 high-danger chances at five-on-five in Game 2 and had just eight on their side. That’s a number that needs to improve and as seen in the heat map, the Golden Knights had some concentrated fire from the high-percentage areas.
More than anything, it’s good to have the Kane of yore back. He’ll be necessary moving forward.
1. Reilly Smith (VGK) — GWG, 1 assist
2. Patrick Kane (CHI) — 3 assists, 24:06 TOI
3. Jonathan Marchessault (VGK) — 2 assists, 3 shots
The Blackhawks play Game 3 against the Golden Knights at 7 p.m. Saturday.