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5 Keys: Golden Knights at Kings, Game 3

Defensemen Doughty, Muzzin set to return for Los Angeles; Vegas tries to go up 3-0 in series

by Dan Greenspan / NHL.com Correspondent

GOLDEN KNIGHTS AT KINGS

10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, FS-W, ATTSN-RM

Vegas leads best-of-7 series 2-0

 

LOS ANGELES -- The Vegas Golden Knights can become the first NHL team to win the first three Stanley Cup Playoff games in its inaugural season with a victory in Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on Sunday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, FS-W, ATTSN-RM).

 

[RELATED: Kings hope to find goals at home in Game 3 | Complete Golden Knights vs. Kings series coverage]

 

Vegas defeated Los Angeles 2-1 at T-Mobile Arena on Friday when Erik Haula scored at 15:23 of the second overtime to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series. If the Golden Knights go up 3-0, they would join the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1970 and the Florida Panthers in 1996 as the third NHL team to win its first three playoff games. The Penguins and Panthers each was in its third season in the League.

Here are 5 keys for Game 3:

 

1. Kings get help on defense

The Kings are determined to hold serve at home, and they'll get some reinforcements on defense. Jake Muzzin is expected to return from an upper-body injury that sidelined him for the final five games of the regular season and the first two games of this series, though coach John Stevens said he's a game-time decision. Drew Doughty will be back in the lineup after he was suspended for Game 2 because of an illegal check to the head of Golden Knights forward William Carrier in the series opener.

The return of Doughty and Muzzin will give the Kings some fresh legs after three of their defensemen played at least 30 minutes in Game 2, with Christian Folin not far behind at 29:56. Alec Martinez played 44:58, breaking Doughty's Los Angeles playoff record of 41:41 set in Game 2 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final against the New York Rangers.

Stevens is also reuniting "That '70s Line" by putting Tanner Pearson with Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli. The trio produced 51 points (21 goals, 30 assists) in the 2014 playoffs, when the Kings won their second Stanley Cup championship.

 

2. Bang and crash

Los Angeles wants to establish its forecheck to generate more chances after scoring one goal in two games at T-Mobile Arena. The Golden Knights have stood up physically and used their speed to keep the Kings hemmed in their own zone.

"As a defenseman, I know it's tough having to go back that many times in a game, you look up and the other team is putting pucks behind you and being methodical," Nate Schmidt of Vegas said. "It's hard, it's taxing on your body. It just wears you down if you continue to play that way."

 

3. Quick vs. Fleury

The marquee goaltending matchup of the first round has lived up to its billing. Marc-Andre Fleury of the Golden Knights has made a save on 59 of 60 shots (.983 save percentage, 0.39 goals-against average). He's had to be at the top of his game because Jonathan Quick of the Kings has allowed three goals on 84 shots (.964 save percentage, 1.17 goals-against average) and set a Los Angeles postseason record by making 54 saves in Game 2.

Video: LAK@VGK, Gm2: Quick makes save on odd-man rush

"I don't think they have surprised anybody, to be honest with you," Stevens said of the goaltenders. "Both those guys get excited for games like this. I think they get excited for the playoffs, and their performance is exactly what everybody expected it would be.

The Golden Knights have been more successful in getting behind the Kings defensemen and creating traffic in front of Quick; the Kings need to get more pressure on Fleury and cut down on Quick's workload.

 

4. Score first

The Kings were among the best in the NHL in the regular season at coming back after falling behind early. They were second with 20 wins (20-26-4) when allowing the first goal and first with 12 wins (12-21-4) when trailing entering the second period. They've been behind 1-0 after the first period each of the first two games of the series, and though they've had more success than most teams at chasing the game, the Kings understand how much more difficult that becomes in the playoffs.

For the Golden Knights, scoring first gave their already-boisterous home crowd even more to be excited about. Getting the first goal in Los Angeles could sap some enthusiasm from the crowd at Staples Center and get the Kings thinking about their struggles at home during the regular season, when they were 23-15-3.

 

5. Kings need stars to shine

Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Doughty, who were 1-2-3 in scoring for the Kings this season, don't have a point in the series. That has to change for Los Angeles to have a chance to win. Playing at home with the final line change should give the Kings more chances to get their best players into favorable situations, but Stevens said Saturday that matchups will be less of a factor when it comes to his top line of Kopitar, Brown and Alex Iafallo.

Video: LAK@VGK, Gm2: Fleury stops Kopitar's backhander

"I think sometimes it's more about continuity and pace with your own team," Stevens said. "They play [center William] Karlsson a lot against Kopitar. When they were in here, we played Kopi a lot against Karlsson. It's a lot like you play Chicago, you play Kopi against [Jonathan] Toews; you go to Chicago, they play Toews against Kopi."

 

Golden Knights projected lineup

Jonathan Marchessault -- William Karlsson -- Reilly Smith

Alex Tuch -- Erik Haula -- James Neal

Ryan Carpenter -- Cody Eakin -- David Perron

William Carrier -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Tomas Nosek

Brayden McNabb -- Nate Schmidt

Shea Theodore -- Deryk Engelland

Jon Merrill -- Colin Miller

Marc-Andre Fleury

Malcolm Subban

Scratched: Dylan Ferguson , Oscar Lindberg, Ryan Reaves, Brad Hunt, Tomas Tatar

Injured: Luca Sbisa (lower body)

 

Kings projected lineup

Alex Iafallo -- Anze Kopitar -- Dustin Brown

Tanner Pearson -- Jeff Carter -- Tyler Toffoli

Tobias Rieder -- Adrian Kempe -- Trevor Lewis

Kyle Clifford -- Nate Thompson -- Torrey Mitchell

Jake Muzzin -- Drew Doughty

Oscar Fantenberg -- Alec Martinez

Dion Phaneuf -- Christian Folin

Jonathan Quick

Jack Campbell

Scratched: Andy Andreoff, Jonny Brodzinski, Paul LaDue, Michael Amadio, Kevin Gravel

Injured: Derek Forbort (lower body)

 

Status report

Perron appears to be ready to return after missing the final five games of the regular season and the first two games of this series because of an undisclosed injury. Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant called him a game-time decision. ... Tatar will be a healthy scratch. … Iafallo will return to the top line after being a scratch in Game 2.

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