Playing some of their best hockey of the 2018-19 season, the Vegas Golden Knights have wrapped up a brutal east coast swing. The Golden Knights (19-15-2) played four games in six days in New York, New Jersey and Ohio. Despite the tough schedule, the VGK were able to split the four-game stretch.
The road trip, which at one point included the Golden Knights staying in the same hotel for a few days since the games were so geographically close, was another mid-season test. It also saw the return of a few banged up Knights and a few bits of drama along the way.
“New York, New York”
The road trip started with a Golden Knights first. When the team took on the New York Islanders on Dec. 12, Vegas was trying to get their first win against the team. In the Barclays Center, the Knights were able to pull off a 3–2 victory.
VGK got their first big opportunity just 19 seconds into the game when Islander center Casey Cizikas was sent to the penalty box. Just 15 seconds later it was Jonathan Marchessault with the game-opening goal. The Islanders scored a pair of goals, followed by an unassisted score by William Karlsson, before the second period came to a close.
To prove my point about the atmosphere, turn the sound on and listen to this. pic.twitter.com/vikeKD695F
— SinBin.vegas (@SinBinVegas) December 13, 2018
The final goal of the night came early in the third period when Tomas Nosek picked up his third goal of the season with assists from Oscar Lindberg and Ryan Carpenter.
Golden Knights with some unusual line rushes this am at morning skate.
All 23 players on the ice. Pacioretty was an extra with the 4th line. Lindberg was with Stastny and Tuch. Eakin between Carpenter and Nosek.#VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/VrCnVFEpP8
— David Schoen 📰🗞🏒 (@DavidSchoenLVRJ) December 14, 2018
Fist pumping on the Jersey shore
Two nights later, Vegas continued their east coast road trip with a matchup with the New Jersey Devils. While the Knights fell 5–4 in the end, the beginning was just golden. The first period with the road team ahead 3–0 and goals scored by Alex Tuch, Karlsson and William Carrier. In the second period, the Devils began to inch their way back.
Early in the period, Colin Miller was sent to the penalty box for interference. Devil Travis Zajac was quick to score the power play goal and get New Jersey on the board for the first time. After a penalty by New Jersey, it was Karlsson in the power play picking up his second goal of the night. The Devils then scored a trio of goals through the second and third period, leaving the scoreboard knotted at the end of regulation.
However, the game was over in under one minute of overtime. Devils center Nico Hischier scored the game-ending goal, sending the Knights back to New York with a loss. After one off day, the Golden Knights found themselves again under the bright lights of the Big Apple.
— Bryan Kroten (@bryankroten) December 17, 2018
“Paulie Walnuts” takes Madison Square Garden by storm
Facing the New York Rangers, the Knights had a reversal of fortune from their game before—beating the Rangers 4–3 in overtime. With Marc-Andre Fleury in the net, the Knights ended the first period tied at 1–1 with a power play goal from Reilly Smith putting the team on the board. In the second period, newcomer Paul Stastny sounded the horn, scoring his first goal of the season.
Stastny, who scored 16 goals between Winnipeg and St. Louis last season, signed a three-year contract worth $6.5 million per year last offseason. Goals by Rangers center Mika Zibanejad and Carrier gave Vegas a 3–2 lead at the end of the second period. Despite giving up a pair of goals thus far, Fleury had played a strong game and had help from a stout defense that kept the puck away from their star goaltender.
By the end of the match, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist had 37 saves compared to Fleury’s 27. The Rangers picked up one more goal in the third period to tie the score and send the game to overtime. It took more than two minutes of overtime to crown a winner and it was Tuch, with assists from Stastny and Miller, that sent the crowd home.
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 16, 2018
The victory was win number 423 in Fleury’s career, tying him with Tony Esposito for ninth all-time in goalie wins. With 46 games left in the season, he has a chance to climb as high as fifth on the all-time list.
Subban stands tall in goal at Columbus
The next day, the Knights were taking on the Columbus Blue Jackets, their first back-to-back since Nov. 23 and 24. Also for the first time since November, Fleury did not find his name in the starting lineup.
For the first time in 14 games, it was Malcolm Subban in goal for the Golden Knights. Despite Subban’s best efforts against Columbus, the home team came away with a 1–0 win. He was outright dominant in the first two periods of play, earning his own highlight reel of saves. Subban picked up 30 saves, allowing the only goal of the night to Blue Jackets winger Nick Foligno 40 seconds into the third period.
Subban said NO THANK YOU 🙅♂️ pic.twitter.com/YCdRBtJJS9
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 18, 2018
Knights head coach Gerard Gallant said, “[Subban] did a real good. Good for him. It’s too bad we didn’t get any points out of here.”
After sustaining an injury in the game against the Blue Jackets, Max Pacioretty was placed on Injured Reserve, missing at least one week. The team called up Brandon Pirri from the Chicago Wolves to take Pacioretty’s spot on the roster.
The Knights are returning home on Dec. 20 to face the Islanders for the second time in eight days. The puck will drop at 7 p.m. as the Knights trudge toward third in the Pacific Division and Fleury, most likely, will have a chance at his 424th career win and sole possession of ninth place.