The last scenario the Blackhawks wanted was a 3-0 series deficit against the West’s No. One seed in the Vegas Golden Knights.
Adam Boqvist was reinserted into the lineup in place of Lucas Carlsson, Patrick Kane led all forwards in ice-time (24:41), and Alex Debrincat played like a man possessed (8 shots) — yet the Golden Knights would hang on for a 2-1 victory, gaining a critical stranglehold on the First Round series while remaining undefeated in the playoffs.
Vegas gained the lead for the third straight game while shorthanded after Duncan Keith lost the puck in his skates at Vegas’ blue line. Mark Stone began a 2-on-1 rush with defenseman William Karlsson, who backhanded a shot over Corey Crawford’s blocker for the early lead. The goal marked the sixth time in seven playoff games in which the Hawks allowed the opening goal.
Adding to their first period woes, the Blackhawks would hit their 13th goalpost of the playoffs after Patrick Kane clanked a shot off a wide-open net late in the first period. Kane played on virtually every line, as he was once again double-shifted by coach Jeremy Colliton the entire game.
The Knights’ phenomenal transition game led to a 2-0 lead late in the second period when Vegas won a board battle in the Hawks’ zone. After a 3-on-1 rush through the neutral zone, Patrick Brown chipped a rebound past Crawford for his first career playoff goal.
Alex Debrincat was a one-man freight train for the Blackhawks and the most dangerous forward on either team all game, generating at least six Grade-A scoring chances by the end of the second period alone.
The Blackhawks would finally break Marc-Andre Fleury’s shutout bid six minutes into the third period when defenseman Olli Maatta wristed a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle, squeaking the puck past the Vegas netminder for his lone blemish of the game. The goal was Maatta’s third in the postseason, as the Hawks continued to gain offensive production from their D-corp.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) August 16, 2020
Unfortunately, Maatta’s goal would be as close as the Hawks would get, with Fleury finishing with 26 saves for the 2-1 victory.
With forward Paul Stastny and defenseman Tomas Nosek deemed unfit to play — in addition to starting goalie Robin Lehner being rested for Game 4 today — the Blackhawks had a golden opportunity to steal Game 3 against Vegas. Overall, Chicago arguably played the better game, but still failed to solve Vegas’ stout team defense and quick transitional game.
The Blackhawks didn’t commit an egregious amount of errors in the game, but the few mistakes they did make, the Golden Knights capitalized every time — that is what good teams do. In addition, Chicago’s power play failed to capitalize at critical junctures in the game, finishing 0-for-4 on the night.
Teams with a 3-0 lead in a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series have a 97% chance of advancing to the next round. In less than 24 hours, the Blackhawks not only face elimination but also their second consecutive playoff sweep.
“We’re down three games, (today’s) it. Must win to stay alive,” Jonathan Toews said. “That’s just the reality and that’s the way we look at it. We did a lot of good things. We were working for the bounces, pucks were laying around, just didn’t find the back of the net. (Today) we’ve just got to believe that we will.”