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Vegas Golden Knights just keep winning and winning

Reilly Smith #19 of the Vegas Golden Knights scores the game-winning goal at 7:13 of overtime against the Chicago Blackhawks to win the game 4-3 in Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on August 13, 2020.
Reilly Smith #19 of the Vegas Golden Knights scores the game-winning goal at 7:13 of overtime against the Chicago Blackhawks to win the game 4-3 in Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on August 13, 2020.

It’s now been 160 days since the Vegas Golden Knights lost.

On March 6, Vegas was trounced 4-0 in Winnipeg, and it’s been win after win after win since, their latest victory coming 4-3 in overtime Thursday against the Chicago Blackhawks, when Rielly Smith redirected Paul Stastny’s pass behind Corey Crawford in the 67th minute of Game 2 of their playoff series.

They’re up two in this one after three wins in the round-robin seeding portion of the Stanley Cup tournament. Throw in two Ws against Calgary and Edmonton just before the NHL Pause March 12, and they’ve won seven straight. And in the games at Rogers Place, they overwhelmed teams from the third period on, outscoring them 12-1 in five games.

While Patrick Kane was willing and extremely able Thursday in Game 2, in on all three Chicago goals by Kirby Dach, Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome to give the winger 130 points in 133 career playoff games, his magic wasn’t to pull a win out of the hat against his former goalie, Robin Lehner.

Lehner managed to stay on his feet with new skates after two blades broke in Game 1, and wasn’t totally sharp but he’s still now 7-0 since Vegas got him in a trade at the Feb. 24 deadline. He had trouble with Kane, who also hit the post late in the first on a five-hole shot, but Vegas is just deeper. Smith and Stastny both scored and had an assist as the nominal second-line forwards. And they also got goals from Mark Stone and fourth-line centre Tomas Nosek.

Smith, who scored two in Game 1, squeezed his stick between two Chicago defenders on his fifth shot of the game.

“It started on the shift before when (third-liners Alex) Tuch, (Nick) Cousins and (Nicolas) Roy were cycling the puck and hemmed them in their zone, tiring out their defensive unit. Then Cousins did a great job delaying to allow myself and Paul to get in. Good pass and fortunately it bounced off my stick and in,” said Smith, who wanted to give Stastny a verbal hi-five.

“He does everything for us and is a guy who doesn’t care about getting points, just cares about winning the game. We look at his leadership on and off the ice.”

Lehner gave his teammates a hefty scouting report on his old team before the series, but he also knew what the Hawks would try to do to him.

“Yeah, shoot five-hole,” said Lehner, who watched as Kane beat him in the second with that shot but the puck clanged iron, as Kane muttered to himself.

“I know everybody says they’re the underdogs but they’ve got experience and skill. It’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane out there, world-class players,” said Lehner.

“Tonight I have to look at the tape. I can be a bit better but a win’s a win.”

And again, the Golden Knights have not lost when he’s in the net, which means Marc-Andre Fleury will continue to be a cheerleader from the bench as the back-up.

“It’s a very tight-knit group, everyone buys into the system and does the right things. In the long run, you get rewarded,” said Lehner. “From a goalie’s stand-point, you let in one goal or two, there’s no panic, it’s a well-structured team with a lot of skill.”

Kane took over in the second period.

“We had some lulls there, we can’t be letting the game get into a track meet, which isn’t the style we want against Chicago,” said Smith. “But we’re a pretty resilient group.”

Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton didn’t have to make any apologies for his team’s work-rate. They were considerably hungrier for pucks Thursday than in Game 1, and they came back from 2-0 and 3-2 holes to tie it, but they’ve been outscored 3-0 from the second period on — all three goals by Smith.

“I really liked our first two periods. I thought we showed a lot of character to battle back a couple of different times. They’re a really good third-period team and they had a hard push and I would have liked to see us handle it better, get some more zone time, a little more push back with our game to take the pressure off,” said Colliton.

One of the differences in the series: The fourth lines. The Hawks can’t match the aggression of Will Carrier or Ryan Reaves and Nosek gave them a lot of speed at centre Thursday. They got a goal from the robust winger Carrier in Game 1 and they had another late in the first on Crawford to make it 2-0, when Nosek whistled a 20-footer over Crawford’s blocker after Carrier slid the puck past Duncan Keith.

This ’n’ that: Max Pacioretty was scratched, presumably aggravating the injury he sustained early in Phase 3 camp. Pacioretty had four shots in 18 minutes in Game 1 but expressed concern with his timing Thursday. Obviously, it was more than his hands that were off for the first-line forward, a surprising sitter for Game 2. Chandler Stephenson moved into his left-wing spot on the top line …The Hawks took out teenaged rookie D Adam Boqvist, Keith’s partner, and inserted Lucas Carlsson (minus-2 in Game 2) into the second pairing. Calvin de Haan moved up from the second pair to play with Keith.
E-mail: jmatheson@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @NHLbyMatty

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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