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Golden Knights stun Kings, eye first playoff sweep

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We’re far beyond the point of debating if the Vegas Golden Knights are “for real,” but the expansion team’s first-year accomplishments keep stacking up to a staggering degree.

The 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs haven’t ruined the party. In Game 1, the Golden Knights grabbed their first-ever goal, win, and shutout in beating the Los Angeles Kings 1-0. Game 2 brought great drama, as even though Jonathan Quick played an incredible game, Vegas ultimately broke through for the 2-1 win in the waning minutes of double overtime. The Golden Knights leveraged their home-ice advantage during those first two games, but it turns out that a change of venue couldn’t stop them.

This time around, Marc-Andre Fleury was the goalie who was stealing the show, stopping 37 out of 39 shots on goal as the Golden Knights pushed the Kings to the brink of elimination with a 3-2 in.

Yes, that’s right, the VGK are now up 3-0 in this series. In their first crack at a playoff series, they’re already getting their first opportunity to complete a sweep in the postseason.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

At this point, it’s insufficient to call the Golden Knights “quick learners.” Instead, their prodigies on the Mozartian scale; maybe their mascot should be Doogie Howser?

Speaking of quick, that’s how this game turned, echoing the Penguins running away with their contest and the Wild doing the same today.

The Kings carried a 1-0 lead into the third period, but Cody Eakin buried a great David Perron pass to complete a busy sequence, tying things up 6:10 in. The dizzying turn of events happened later, as James Neal followed up his wonderful assist on the overtime game-winner in Game 2 to a sneaky goal to put Vegas up 2-1 with 5:37 left in the third:

Neal’s goal is the rare one Quick would want back, although maybe that’s only relative to this series, as it was a pretty nifty move and release. Just 21 seconds later, the Golden Knights stunned the Kings as Reilly Smith made an outstanding play to set up William Karlsson for what would end up being the game-winner.

Anze Kopitar gave the Kings a chance with a wonderful showing of hand-eye coordination for his first goal of the series with a little more than two minutes remaining in regulation, yet it wasn’t enough to nullify that two-goal burst.

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The Kings enjoyed a far better showing in Game 3 than in Game 2, demonstrating the difference that Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin can make in a variety of situations. Of course, the Golden Knights’ big addition mattered as well, as Perron generated that sweet assist on the 1-1 Eakin goal.

Vegas isn’t just sticking with the Kings from a finesse standpoint, either. This has been a physical, sometimes grinding series, and the Golden Knights continue to match L.A. halfway. Between the heated exchanges and the controversial suspension, it’s clear that they’ve had Doughty’s attention the entire way.

Now, the next and biggest challenge so far: eliminating a team on the brink of their season ending.

So far, the Golden Knights have been exemplary in passing these tests, although the Kings have provide very little breathing room on the scoreboard. Vegas would be foolish to rest on its laurels, either, as they merely need to ask the San Jose Sharks how dangerous this Kings animal can get when it’s backed into a corner.

Game 4 airs on NBCSN on Tuesday, with puck drop slated for 10:30 p.m. ET.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Golden Knights, Kings got key players back in Game 3

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Game 3 of the Vegas Golden Knights – Los Angeles Kings series should have a different feel to it, and not just because the venue’s shifted to Los Angeles.

Both teams get key players back in their lineups, which has to be especially welcome after Game 2 almost made it to a third OT period before Erik Haula put Vegas up 2-0 in the series.

[CLICK HERE TO WATCH GAME 3 LIVE]

The Kings probably feel the most relief. After being severely out-shot in Game 2 with Drew Doughty suspended, they’re getting Doughty back, but that’s not all. Jake Muzzin is also returning from his injury absence, and Muzzin – Doughty served as the Kings’ top pairing to begin Game 3.

Vegas gets an important player back, too, as David Perron returns to their mix. Despite being limited to 70 regular-season games, Perron finished third in scoring for the Golden Knights, collecting 66 points (16 goals, 50 assists). Perron gives the Golden Knights a dangerous additional scorer beyond James Neal and the dangerous-looking trio of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith.

So far, this has been a very low-scoring series, yet it’s also been thrilling and physical. It should be interesting to see how this influx of talent might change the flow of play, matchups, and other aspects of the series.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Wild cut Jets’ series lead to 2-1; Tyler Myers injured

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The Minnesota Wild are running away with Game 3, with much of the damage coming in the second period, including what must have been a dizzying sequence of events for the Winnipeg Jets.

14:40 into the second period: Eric Staal scored his first goal of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Just 20 seconds later (15 minutes into the second period): Jordan Greenway made it 5-2 for Minnesota, scoring his first career NHL goal.

About one minute after Staal’s 4-2 goal: Tyler Myers took an awkward fall into the boards thanks to a collision with Marcus Foligno. PHT will keep an eye out for updates on Myers’ condition beyond missing the remainder of Game 3; it looked scary at first, although Myers looked a bit better as he was leaving the ice.

Here’s video of Myers’ injury:

Myers scored his second goal of the series earlier in the second period, seemingly giving the Jets a real shot at tying things up. Instead, the game’s gotten away from Winnipeg being that Foligno scored a late goal in the middle frame to expand the lead to 6-2.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Post-game update:

The third period was quiet, as Minnesota ended up winning by that 6-2 score to reduce Winnipeg’s series lead to 2-1.

Much was made about how the Wild play better hockey at home in Minnesota, and tonight’s performance validated that notion. It has to be heartening to Bruce Boudreau’s crew that Devan Dubnyk allowed a goal or two that he’d like to have back – including to Winnipeg’s deadly power play – and yet the Wild took control of the game and won.

The Wild hope to tie the series (while Winnipeg aims for a 3-1 lead) in Game 4, which takes place on Tuesday. You can catch the contest on CNBC beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Vegas never sleeps, even in double OT

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Friday’s games

Flyers 5, Penguins 1 (Series tied 1-1)

What a difference a game makes. After getting throttled 7-0 in Game 1, the Flyers responded, tying the series via an impressive 5-1 effort. Philly’s top line responded, and Brian Elliott went from goat to great. The best news for the Penguins might be that Kris Letang‘s potential injury might not be as bad as it looked.

Jets 4, Wild 1 (Jets lead series 2-0)

For a while, it seemed like Game 2 would be a carbon copy of Game 1: Devan Dubnyk almost steals it, but Winnipeg wills its way to a close win. Instead, the Jets flew by in the third period. They dominated the game by just about every measure, leaving Minnesota despondent.

Golden Knights 2, Kings 1 [double OT] (Golden Knights lead series 2-0)

It really looked like Jonathan Quick would drag Los Angeles into triple-overtime against Vegas. The Golden Knights dominated play, generating a gaudy 56-30 shots on goal advantage (and it only gets more disproportionate as you dig deeper), yet Quick was incredibly sharp. Erik Haula finally scored the overtime game-winner with less than five minutes remaining in the second OT.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Three Stars

1. Jonathan Quick, Kings: This wasn’t just the longest game in Golden Knights history (duh), it was also the longest for the Kings. Quick was ridiculous, making 54 out of 56 saves, a mix of quality chances and volume shots. He was incredible, and was on task in Game 1, carrying over one of his best-ever regular season runs to the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Kings have scored a solitary goal in two games (and, the real-time equivalent of almost three), so Quick remains winless so far during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

2. Sean Couturier, Flyers: Elliott deserves all of that praise, but the Flyers’ breakthrough forward was excellent in Game 2. He scored a goal and two assists, with his helper on Nolan Patrick‘s first-career postseason goal standing out as borderline obscene:

Game 2 ended in regulation, yet Couturier – a forward – logged a ridiculous 27:15 of ice time on Friday, including a bit more than five minutes shorthanded.

3. Brian Elliott, Flyers: It’s not like the Penguins took it easy in Game 2 because of their Game 1 output. And it’s not just that the Penguins warped the stats when the score was getting out of hand. Pittsburgh generated 11 shots on goal in the first period and then 12 in each of the second and third, yet only Patric Hornqvist scored against Elliott, who ultimately made 34 out of 35 saves.

There were some really tough ones, including stopping Crosby on about as clean a breakaway as you’ll enjoy in a playoff game:

Quite a rebound game, indeed.

MISC.

Some comic relief from Connor Hellebuyck:

Marc-Andre Fleury‘s had it easy compared to Jonathan Quick, but this has been quite the start to the postseason for a goalie piling up accolades:

People said it was “only a game,” but you really do need to give the Flyers credit for bouncing back from such a beating.

Patrik Laine is a treat … unless he’s beating you.

Take a look at that Haula game-winner for Vegas, a nice reminder of how impressive the Golden Knights were in transition essentially all night long.

Factoid of the Night

Matt Murray‘s shutout streak ended with less than a minute remaining in the first period, and then things really began to crumble for the goalie and the Penguins. Still, what a run it was …

Saturday’s schedule

New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning, 3 p.m. ET (CNBC/NBC)
Colorado Avalanche at Nashville Predators, 3 p.m. ET (CNBC/NBC)
Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins, 8 p.m. ET (NBC)
San Jose Sharks at Anaheim Ducks, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Golden Knights overwhelm Kings in double OT

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Welcome to the dance, Golden Knights.

Vegas made history in Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, nabbing their first postseason goal, win, and shutout. The Los Angeles Kings present them with the purest, most terrifying playoff experience in Game 2, however, as this 1-1 contest is headed to double overtime.

Update: Now another first: they won their first overtime game, edging the Kings 2-1 in double OT. James Neal set the table for Erik Haula, who followed up a 29-goal campaign with this enormous tally:

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The Golden Knights are also getting a taste of a cruel postseason experience: dominating long stretches of play but failing to beat a keyed-in goaltender. In this case, Jonathan Quick is showing why he’s one of the NHL’s most accomplished playoff netminders, nullifying a Vegas attack that’s occasionally racking up twice as many chances.

You might as well get your favorite nervous GIFs and emoticons ready.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.