The Vegas Golden Knights did almost everything you could ask of them in Game 5 to close out the Vancouver Canucks.
Dominate possession? Check.
Create more high-danger scoring chances? Check.
Own the 5-on-5 shot advantage? Check.
The one thing that they failed to do was win the all-important “goals scored” column. Vancouver’s 2-1 win Tuesday night extended their Second Round series with Game 6 Thursday night (9:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN; livestream).
Vegas’ missed opportunity won’t stay with them. They know they executed their game plan as well as they could. It was just Demko’s night. There won’t be any flashbacks to last postseason when the Golden Knights blew a 3-1 First Round series lead to the San Jose Sharks.
“Even without traffic we had some point-blank shots and we’ve got guys who can stick those in the net and we just didn’t tonight,” said Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer. “So you can’t overreact. There’s not many quarterfinal series like this, or conference semifinal series that end in five games. It just doesn’t happen. You’ve got two good teams going at it, and we’ve got a chance to win this in six and we’ll come back and regroup and get ready for that.”
[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
Demko, who was in goal because Jacob Markstrom was “unfit to play,” was story. He became the 15th goalie, and seventh rookie, in NHL history to win his first career playoff start with his team facing elimination. His 42 saves extended the Canucks’ season and also gave them a glimpse into what life might be like if they can’t re-sign Markstrom.
“That’s part of being a guy who’s the backup goalie,” said Canucks head coach Travis Green. “He’s also a young goalie in the League, but he knows any given time, he can go in the net. I said that earlier, he’s a good pro, he takes the job seriously. He understands when he gets in, what’s to be expected. Give him a lot of credit. That’s not an easy spot to go into, especially against a team like that. They shoot a lot of pucks to the net, they’re a good hockey team, and he stood tall.”
Unlike in their three losses, the Canucks did a good job at keeping the Golden Knights away from their crease for those high-danger scoring chances. Traffic in front leads to better opportunities, and no matter who’s in goal for Vancouver, Vegas knows they need to take away Demko or Markstrom’s eyes.
[NHL Second Round schedule]
There’s been no indication on who will start in goal for the Canucks in Game 6. If Markstrom is fit to play, should he get the start or will Green go back to Demko? Also playing into the coach’s decision is the fact that a potential Game 7 would be Friday night.
Advancing out of this series won’t be easy for the Canucks, but they’ve taken one step forward with plenty of confidence gained.
“Again, I say it a lot, I’ve got a lot of belief in our group,” said Green. “They’ll be ready to go [Thursday] one way or the other. I’m not going to guarantee that they’re going to play an unbelievable game, but they’re going to be there to win it.”
Golden Knights vs. Canucks (VGK leads 3-2)
Golden Knights 5, Canucks 0 (recap)
Canucks 5, Golden Knights 2 (recap)
Golden Knights 3, Canucks 0 (recap)
Golden Knights 5, Canucks 3 (recap)
Canucks 2, Golden Knights 1 (recap)
Game 6: Thursday, Sept. 3 – 9:45 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
*Game 7: Friday, Sept. 4 – TBD
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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.