EDMONTON, Alberta (AP)Even though Reilly Smith called it a lucky bounce, a whole lot more than luck is working right now for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Smith scored in overtime, Robin Lehner made 22 saves and the Golden Knights beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 on Thursday to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round series. Vegas has won all five of its games since the NHL resumed.
”We’re a pretty resilient group,” said Smith, who has three goals in the series. ”We need to bring that for all 60 minutes. … There’s still a lot of things we need to clean up, but we’ll take the win and try to get a little bit better tomorrow.”
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford stopped 35 of the 39 shots he faced, including 16 in the third period alone.
The Western Conference top-seeded Golden Knights are looking for their first playoff series victory since 2018. They reached the Stanley Cup Final that year, then lost to San Jose in seven games in the first round last year.
This was the third game already in the first round to go to overtime. Tampa Bay beat Columbus in the fifth overtime Tuesday, and Boston beat Carolina in double OT Wednesday. Smith’s goal came 7:13 into the first OT.
”He’s come back from the pause and has got a lot of confidence, a lot of energy, he’s healthy,” coach Peter DeBoer said about Smith. ”He’s really driving a lot of plays for us and important plays.”
The Golden Knights were without regular-season leading scorer Max Pacioretty, who only joined them in the Edmonton bubble last week. DeBoer didn’t have an update on Pacioretty or goal-scorer Tomas Nosek, who took his last shift late in the second period and didn’t return.
Paul Stastny opened the scoring for Vegas 10:44 in after strong work down low by Smith and Jonathan Marchessault, and Nosek made it 2-0 at the 15:35 mark of the first period. It was Stastny’s first goal since hockey returned.
”He steps up every night,” Smith said of Stastny. ”He does everything, so it’s nice to see him get rewarded.”
Chicago got goals from rookies Kirby Dach and Dominik Kubalik in the second to tie it. Mark Stone restored the lead for Vegas with 2:40 left in the period, then Dylan Strome got it right back for the Blackhawks 13.6 seconds before intermission.
”I think we played a better team game today,” said Strome, who hit the crossbar early in overtime. ”We did a good job of holding their forwards up coming into the zone and giving our D a little more time. We’ve got to continue to do that and be ready for next game.”
Patrick Kane assisted on all three Chicago goals in the second period.
”I thought Chicago played really well,” said Lehner, who signed with the Blackhawks last summer and was traded to Vegas at the deadline. ”Everyone keeps saying they’re underdogs, but you look at their team, the experience, the skill – it’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane out there. It’s a lot of skill and they’re world-class players, so when they get opportunities, it’s hard.”
NOTES: Rookie D Lucas Carlsson made his Stanley Cup playoff debut, replacing Adam Boqvist on the Blackhawks blue line. … Stastny’s goal was his 23rd in the playoffs in his career, the most among Vegas players.
Game 3 is Saturday night.
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