It’s hitting now like players in a high-stakes game of blackjack — and has Vegas two wins from the Stanley Cup.
The Golden Knights got two more power-play goals Monday in their 7-2 rout of the Florida Panthers in Game 2, with Jonathan Marchessault cashing in for his team-record 11th goal of the playoffs and Brett Howden adding another in the final minutes. Marchessault also scored on the power play in the series-opening win Saturday.
“Marchy’s pretty hot — he seems to be shooting the puck well,” said Jack Eichel, who assisted on Marchessault’s power-play goal. “We’re just trying to communicate and move the puck. When things break down, try to make plays and support each other. Obviously, I think that’s what happened.”
Dating to the Western Conference final-clinching victory against Dallas, which players and Cassidy have called arguably their best performance of the season, Vegas has scored on the power play in three consecutive games for the first time since late December. The unit is 4 for 11 (36.4%) in the final versus Florida.
“It’s picking a good time to get going,” Cassidy said. “It’s important that it’s working because, if not, you can really lose momentum and they can gain momentum from kills, so that’s the importance of it right now.”
Of all the things that powered the Golden Knights through the first three rounds, the power play was not chief among them. They scored just 10 times on 54 opportunities, an 18.5% success rate that was ninth-best of the 16 teams that qualified for the playoffs.
That was strong evidence of Vegas getting offense at even strength. The Golden Knights’ 50 goals at 5-on-5 entering the final were by far the most of anyone this postseason.
“We score 5-on-5,” Cassidy said. “We’ve won a lot of games without having (the power play need) to perform at a high level, but it’s certainly another weapon or another way to create offense that is going to help.”
Alec Martinez, Nicolas Roy and Howden all scored at even strength, chasing Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky midway through Game 2, and the Golden Knights added two more 5-on-5 goals for good measure in the third period against Alex Lyon. Martinez’s goal also gave Vegas three goals from defensemen this series after it got a total of three from them through the first 17 games of the playoffs.
It’s a different recipe than series against Winnipeg, Edmonton and Dallas, but it’s working so far. The success getting the power play going and shots through screens and past Bobrovsky is a testament to Cassidy and his staff making important adjustments against a different opponent.
Florida got through the East despite having the fourth-worst penalty kill in the playoffs and taking the most penalties. The lack of discipline is something the Golden Knights were keenly aware of.
“You’re playing against one of the most penalized teams in the league in the regular season and the most in the playoffs,” Cassidy said. “So, you’re going to get on the power play if you’re working to draw your penalties.”
Neither front has seen much improvement for the Panthers, who took 14 penalties, including six misconducts and another for abuse of officials in the blowout loss. As a result, they have a deep hole to climb out of with the series shifting to Florida for Games 3 and 4 on Thursday and Saturday.
“It’s just how we play,” leading scorer Matthew Tkachuk said. “I think if we were playing physical and (winning) you guys would be like, ‘That’s the recipe for success,’ so we’re just sticking with our game. We do have to tweak a few things.”