The Vegas Golden Knights held off a four-goal performance by Edmonton center Leon Draisaitl to take game one of the Western Conference Semifinals 6-4 inside the confines of T-Mobile Arena.
“We feel like if we can keep it to a 5-on-5 game, it sure increases our chances,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said.
The Golden Knights now hold a 1-0 series lead in this Best-of-7 series with Game 2 of this series scheduled for Saturday, May 6th at 4 p.m. from T-Mobile Arena.
The winner of this series advances to the Western Conference Finals and will face the winner of the Seattle Kraken – Dallas Stars series.
To put Draisaitl’s performance into perspective, he scored more goals than the New Jersey Devils Wednesday night. Draisaitl’s four goals is the first hat trick ever scored against Vegas in the playoffs.
Coming into Wednesday’s game one, Edmonton had won three of the four meetings between these teams in the regular season with the lone VGK win coming on the road in overtime when they beat Edmonton 4-3 back on March 25th.
Leading the way for the Knights was center Ivan Barbashev who finished his night scoring two goals. The first of Babashev’s goals came less than five minutes into the game when he answered a Draisaitl power play goal with a goal of his own 40 seconds later to tie the game at one.
It was Barbashev’s first career multi-goal game in the playoffs and he has already matched his playoff goals count from 2019 where he scored three goals during those playoffs to help St. Louis win the Stanley Cup.
“He’s one of those guys that thrives at this time of the year and rises to the occasion,” defenseman Zach Whitecloud said of Barbashev.
Whitecloud finished the game with two assists when he assisted on goals by Barbashev and center Michael Amadio. It was Whitecloud’s first multi-point playoff game of his career.
These goals by Draisaitl and Barbashev were all part of a five-goal first period between the two teams. Teammates and Captain Mark Stone along with Amadio followed up Barbashev’s opening goal to give the home team a 3-1 lead with just over a minute and a half to go in the first.
Stone’s goal was the fourth of the playoffs for him and a later assist would give Stone the team lead for points scored in these playoffs with 10 points in the past five games.
“I thought we played well tonight,” Amadio said. “I thought we had a lot of jump.”
Assisting on Amadio’s goal was center William Karlsson who has scored at least one point in five of the six playoff games this season for Vegas and has scored a goal in four of those six games.
Draisaitl found the back of the net for the second time in the game with 11 seconds to go in the first period when he trimmed the Vegas lead down to 3-2 heading into the second period of play.
While both teams had ample chances to score in the middle frame, both sides failed to light the lamp in the second period, keeping the game at 3-2 in favor of the Golden Knights heading into the third period.
The second of the Barbashev goals came in the third period to break a 3-3 tie when he lit the lamp 2:36 into the third to give Vegas a 4-3 lead.
“I think it was a really good game by us,” Barbashev said. “Despite a lot of goals going back and forth, we stuck to our plan and got a big win.”
Fifty seconds later, fellow center Chandler Stephenson extended the Vegas lead out to 5-3.
This was Stephenson’s fifth goal of the playoffs which leads all Vegas scorers and he has nine points in the last five games.
Draisaitl would score one more time with just over 11 minutes remaining in the game to cut the lead to 5-4.
Edmonton continued to put pressure on the Golden Knights for the final 11 minutes as they searched for the game-tying goal but could not find it and with 34 seconds left, Vegas center Jack Eichel scored an empty-net goal to seal the win for Vegas and give them a 1-0 series lead.