It might be reductive to boil down the outcome of Game 2 on Tuesday using one statistic. But it sure is telling nonetheless.
Shots on goal: Golden Knights 40
Blocked shots: Vancouver 40
The Canucks played with desperation in an effort to even the Western Conference semifinals and the Knights were too late to respond in a 5-2 loss.
The best-of-seven series continues Thursday at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta.
“I think that’s definitely an indicator of their commitment and their desperation in the game,” DeBoer said. “When you put in that type of commitment to winning, a lot of times you get rewarded.
“We were a little late, a little slow, a little soft. You get what you deserve in this league a lot of nights.”
Alex Tuch and Max Pacioretty scored for the Knights, who lost to the Canucks in regulation for the first time in franchise history (9-1-2).
Coming off his first career postseason shutout, goalie Robin Lehner allowed more than three goals for the first time in 11 starts since he was acquired by the Knights at the February trade deadline.
Lehner didn’t get much help from the Knights’ defenseman or forwards guarding the house and stopped 22 of 26 shots.
“We knew they were going to come have a bounce-back game, and we’ve got to do a better job being ready from the start,” Lehner said. “They got a lot of skill over there, and if you give them time and space, they’ll capitalize. Yeah, it was frustrating. I’ve got to be better.”
The Knights took uncharacteristic penalties and allowed the Canucks to use their speed in transition while falling behind 2-0 after the first period.
DeBoer briefly shook up the forward lines and defense pairs in the second period, and the Knights stormed Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom with a postseason franchise record with 22 shots on goal.
They broke through at 6:34 when Tuch took a drop pass from Nicolas Roy and blew a shot past Markstrom for his team-leading sixth goal of the postseason and third in the past three games.
But the Knights undid all their work with 1:25 remaining in the period when they fell asleep after a faceoff loss. Alex Edler found Elias Pettersson alone in front, and he made a move around Lehner from in tight for a 3-1 Canucks lead.
“We didn’t get rewarded for the work we put in in the second period,” DeBoer said, “and then we gave them that faceoff goal at the end of the period, which really was a backbreaker going into the third because I really thought we had found our legs and we were generating some momentum.”
Markstrom bounced back after being pulled in Game 1 and finished with 38 saves.
“We knew Vancouver wasn’t happy with the way it played last game,” Tuch said. “We knew they were going to come out and be flying. We decided to instead of being prepared, be surprised by that for some reason.”
The Canucks created several high-danger chances around Lehner in the first period and scored on two of their first four shots.
Toffoli returned to Vancouver’s lineup after missing the past 10 games and made an impact nine seconds into his first shift.
Defenseman Alec Martinez left his former teammate with the Los Angeles Kings uncovered at the back post. Pettersson carried the puck wide around defenseman Shea Theodore, circled the net and slid a pass to Toffoli that left Lehner stranded 1:29 into the first period.
The Knights entered Tuesday as the least penalized team in the postseason, but gave Vancouver’s dangerous power play two opportunities in the first period. The Canucks wasted little time on their first chance, scoring seven seconds into the man advantage.
Toffoli found Horvat in the slot, and he banged home the pass at 9:01 for a 2-0 advantage.
“Obviously, they played better. But from the 15-minute mark of the first period until, what is it, two minutes left in the second, we’re dominating the game,” Knights forward Mark Stone said. “But you can’t get down 2-0 in this league. You use way too much energy trying to come back.”