Vegas looks to improve third-period play vs. Chicago

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The Chicago Blackhawks have alternated wins and losses over their past five games entering Wednesday night’s visit to the Vegas Golden Knights, but make no mistake, Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton doesn’t plan to flip-flop on the driving force behind his club’s latest stretch.

After closing October with three losses in four games, including two by shutout, Chicago opted for a change in puck-moving philosophy. These days, as far as the transition game is concerned, all systems are go.

“We made a conscious effort to be a bit looser when the puck turned over, so we could create more out of the ‘D’ zone in transition, and it’s helped,” Colliton said. “There’s been a lot more plays available for us. [It’s] probably closer to how it looked last year, as far as our ability (to) make plays out of the ‘D’ zone and through the neutral zone, and probably fits our top guys. And you can see, they’re coming to life.”

Chicago has scored five goals in two of its past three games. On Sunday, the host Blackhawks raced to four first-period goals before holding on for a 5-4 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Patrick Kane paced the attack with two goals and one assist, with fellow forwards Alex DeBrincat (three assists) and Jonathan Toews (one goal and one assist) also contributing.

“We’ve got guys throughout our lineup that can create offense,” said Toews, Chicago’s captain. “You get a lead and everyone just relaxes a little bit, feels like, ‘OK, we can make plays.’ Not necessarily get too risky, but just play with a little bit more creativity instead of just throwing the puck away all the time.”

Kane enters play with a club-leading 20 points on eight goals and 12 assists, both team bests. Mark Stone is the Golden Knights’ top point-earner with 18, while fellow forwards Reilly Smith (10 goals) and William Karlsson (12 assists) lead the team in their respective categories.

Vegas also is working to come untracked and snap a three-game losing streak.

The Golden Knights are set to play five of their next six at home beginning Wednesday, but lately they have struggled to find a closing kick wherever they suit up. The club has scored just one third-period goal in its past five contests.

“I think it comes down to each individual having the confidence that they can change the game any time they go out there, whether we just give up a goal or we just score a goal,” Vegas left wing Max Pacioretty told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We’ve got to have that same mentality of always attacking and trying to play on the offense.”

Late leads certainly aren’t foreign to the Golden Knights. Despite being outscored 16-15 in the third period this season, Vegas is 8-1-1 when leading after two periods.

“Teams are ready for us, so we better start being ready, too,” left wing Jonathan Marchessault told the Review-Journal.

Vegas won each of the teams’ three meetings last season, earning victories by scores of 8-3, 4-3 and 4-3 in overtime. The Golden Knights are 7-0-0 against the Blackhawks all-time, including a 2-1 shootout victory in Chicago on Oct. 22.

–Field Level Media

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