EDMONTON — Vegas forward Max Pacioretty, set back by injury in the return to play tournament, found his groove Sunday and put the Vancouver Canucks deep in the ditch in the NHL playoffs.
Pacioretty scored twice and added an assist, and the Vegas Golden Knights rallied for three goals in the third period to beat the Canucks 5-3 at Rogers Place.
The Golden Knights lead the best-of-seven series 3-1. With a win in Game 5 Tuesday they can eliminate the last Canadian team from the 2020 post-season.
It was the fourth goal of the series and the fifth in five games for Pacioretty. The 31-year-old winger suffered a minor injury as players returned to training camp in July for the return to play tournament. He didn't play in the round-robin portion and also missed one game in the first round against Chicago.
"It's easy to come back and join this group," said Pacioretty. "Everyone here is on the same page. You're not really expected to come in here and be the hero, we have such great depth.
"(Coming back from injury) you're not really relied upon to do too much out of your comfort zone, and that's a nice feeling going into a lineup knowing your teammates are working for you to get back into the rhythm of things."
William Karlsson, Nate Schmidt, and Chandler Stephenson also scored for Vegas. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves for his third win of the playoffs.
Shea Theodore added two assists, giving him four goals and 10 helpers in the playoffs.
Bo Horvat, Elias Pettersson, and Tyler Toffoli replied for Vancouver. Jacob Markstrom, in his 14th start, made 28 saves for the loss.
It was a game that saw two lead changes after there had been no lead changes in the first three games of the series.
The Golden Knights were up 2-1 after the first period but trailed 3-2 after the second.
They pressed the Canucks early in the third and tied it when Schmidt cranked a slapshot from the blue-line past Markstrom at 2:52.
Pacioretty then scored the winner at 7:02 on a give-and-go with Schmidt, with the return pass going off his skate blade at the doorstep and behind Markstrom.
Pacioretty then set up the insurance marker 87 seconds later, feeding Karlsson from behind the net for the 5-3 lead.
"It was a strange game," said Vegas head coach Peter DeBoer. He said they started out well but got away from their game when they got into penalty trouble in the second period.
"We talked at the end of the second about just getting back to our game, staying out of the (penalty) box and getting more direct and stopping at the net," said DeBoer.
"When we play that way we can put a lot of pressure on teams."
It was the second game in two nights for Markstrom, who has been facing upwards of 30 shots or more a night in the playoffs. He wasn't as sharp as the game wore on. There were more rebounds and loose pucks and then he let in the long-distance game-tying point shot from Schmidt.
Were you tired from the quick turnaround? Were you not as sharp as you wanted to be? Markstrom was asked.
He delivered an 11-word answer: "I felt great. There's about five (goals) I'd like to have back."
Vancouver winger J.T. Miller assisted on all three Vancouver goals, giving him five goals and nine helpers in the return-to-play tournament. He called the game an opportunity lost.
"That's a dream spot to be in in the playoffs to (try to) tie a series 2-2, and be up by one going into the third. (But) they had too many good looks," said Miller.
It was Fleury's third start of the post-season, replacing Robin Lehner. The change was expected as Lehner played 24 hours earlier, and DeBoer had said the plan is to play both goaltenders in the playoffs.
Lehner, acquired at the trade deadline, has been getting the bulk of the work in the post-season and is 7-2.
Fleury had been the starter until Lehner's arrival and that has not sat well with Fleury's agent, Allan Walsh. When the Vancouver series began, Walsh tweeted a meme of his client, in full uniform on the ice, taking a broadsword in the back. On the blade was written the name DeBoer.
For Vancouver, Toffoli has had two goals and four points in the last three games since returning to the Canucks' lineup after missing an extended period due to a suspected foot injury.
Pettersson has six goals and 17 points in the post-season. Horvat has nine goals.
All Western Conference games are being played at Rogers Place. Players are isolating between games to prevent contracting COVID-19.
Canuck defenceman Tyler Myers returned to the lineup after missing seven games. The rangy 6-foot-8 Texan had not played seen since he got hit by St. Louis forward Brayden Schenn and fell awkwardly into the boards in Game 2 of the Blues series.
Vegas defenceman Jon Merrill recorded one assist in his first action of the playoffs, replacing Nick Holden in the lineup.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published August 30, 2020.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press