The Vegas Golden Knights picked up a win last night against the Detroit Red Wings to go .500 in their four-game road trip following the All-Star Break and bye week. To recap, the Knights lost the first two games against Carolina and Florida, extending their losing streak to four games — tied with the most in franchise history — and raising concern among fans (and me) they were headed for the worst in the second part of the season.
However, the Knights bounced back in dramatic fashion, beating the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-2, in an overtime shootout on Tuesday, followed by a 4-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings Thursday night. The Knights now sit five points behind San Jose, seven points behind Calgary and nine ahead of the Minnesota Wild in the first Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
At Tampa Bay
The Golden Knights knew beating Tampa Bay was a must if they were going to dig their way out of their losing slump and find a way to salvage their road trip.
“We’ve got to stick to our game,” said RW Reilly Smith before the game on Tuesday. “It’s given us a lot of success this year, and so when we stray away from it, I feel like we get into some trouble. So if we stick to our game, come out with the right mindset, I think we should be able to make a good game of it.”
🎥 Smith: Our team’s in a bit of a slump right now, but everyone has a positive attitude and everyone’s being a professional about it. We’re taking it one day at a time. pic.twitter.com/xbRqZnxp2Z
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) February 5, 2019
It didn’t look like they were going to be able to do it early on in the game as Tampa Bay cashed in on their first power play after Schmidt went to the box for cross-checking, and the Knights couldn’t seem to stay out of the box. Karlsson followed up a minute later with a tripping penalty, and luckily the Lightning didn’t repeat themselves. The Knights ended up serving five penalties overall during the game — three of them in the first period — against the league’s best power play team.
Despite playing the best hockey we’ve seen since beginning their losing streak, Tampa Bay managed to get another goal with just six minutes left in the second period after the Knights limited the Lightning to just one shot on goal during the period. The goal was originally deemed goalie interference on the ice, but later overturned as a good goal after Tampa Bay challenged the play, giving them a 2-0 lead.
— David Schoen 📰🗞🏒 (@DavidSchoenLVRJ) February 6, 2019
The call could have ruined the Knight’s momentum and confidence, but they did not let the overturned goal or lack of officiating bother them and managed to find a way to fight back.
Just two minutes after the Lightning scored, defender Jon Merrill made a spectacular stretch pass to Cody Eakin for a breakaway chance and put it past Vasilevskiy, who had been a brick wall throughout the entire game. The goal gained the Knights some confidence heading to the third period.
However, the second period also got chippy and both teams had been landing some pretty hard shots, with Stastny briefly heading to the locker room, and, thankfully, making a return. Unfortunately, Ryan Carpenter did not return after having trouble getting up and off the ice without assistance after Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette railed him into the boards. A penalty was not assessed on the play much to the disagreement of head coach Gerard Gallant and fans on social media.
By the rules, that is textbook boarding. A major penalty and a game misconduct.
Instead, they call nothing. pic.twitter.com/ftBPcGbSji
— SinBin.vegas (@SinBinVegas) February 6, 2019
If anything, this gave Vegas even more reason to bring home a win, and they played in such fashion. The recently acquired LW Valentin Zykov, who has taken a place on the first line in the past few games, tied the game a little over 5 minutes into the period after a beautiful sequence from a struggling first line. William Karlsson got the first assist with his signature pass between the legs to Zykov, who put it back door into the net. Zykov was so excited about his goal, he accidentally hugged Tampa Bay’s Braydon Coburn.
Both teams continued to struggle with staying out of the box in the third, but neither capitalized on the opportunities, even though there were a number of close calls. After a high-energy regulation game, Vegas and Tampa Bay headed into overtime with the Golden Knights on the power play. Despite the majority of the 5 minutes being played in front of the Lightning’s net, Vasilevskiy had an answer for every shot on goal from the Knights, bringing the game to a shootout.
Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman started out for the Lightning and missed his first shootout goal this season. Hot-hand Brandon Pirri, who has been cold as of late, also missed in the first round of the shootout. Up next was Brayden Point, who had just returned from an injury, and Shea Theodore, who both missed their goals. Going into the third round, it looked like it was going to come down to the goalies to win.
Nikita Kucherov, who has 81 points this season off of 21 goals and 59 assists, missed the goal wide on his attempt. Finally, it was Alex Tuch who made a spectacular goal on Vasilevskiy to clinch a much-needed win for the Golden Knights in a heart-racing game.
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) February 6, 2019
“They battled hard all night,” Gallant said after the game. “We played a good, hard game tonight against a really good team. We’re happy to end that streak, for sure.”
Gallant did not provide an update on Carpenter after the game, but said he was feeling “much better” after morning practice in Detroit on Wednesday. He did not practice with the team.
The Golden Knights moved on to the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday coming off a confidence-boosting win in Florida.
Gallant tinkered with the lineup once more against Detroit Thursday night, starting Oscar Lindberg on the third line and scratching Pirri. Nosek also took back his spot on the fourth line since Carpenter did not return from the Tampa Bay game. However, the Marchessault-Karlsson-Zykov line made its third start in a row.
Once again, the Golden Knights did not come out strong in the first period and managed only to record four shots on net while allowing Detroit to score an ugly goal. Fleury thought he had covered the puck, but Gustav Nyquist managed to dig out from his pads and put it in the goal.
GOAL. Detroit scores a goofy goal to take the 1-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/MiXRLSObrF
— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 8, 2019
Less than 15 seconds into the second period, the Golden Knights went on the power play for the first time for a slashing call against Dylan Larkin. Zykov took Pirri’s place on the power play unit.
After a few attempts, Karlsson put a shot on net which rebounded to Marchessault, who put it away, tying the game at one apiece. The first line’s shooting struggles seemed to disappear through the night.
Just after the tying goal, Stastny was sent to the penalty box for a high stick. At the end of yet another penalty kill, Karlsson sprang forward on a rush with Stastny, who was just out of the box and tic-tac-toed the puck past Jimmy Howard, giving the Golden Knights a 2-1 lead and Karlsson his first goal in five games.
— Hockey Daily (@HockeyDaily365) February 8, 2019
Riley Smith joined Karlsson and Marchessault on the first line halfway through the game, which made an immediate impact as Smith put the puck on net and Marchessault was there to clean it up (stop us if you’ve heard that before), extending Vegas’s lead to 3-1 into the third period.
After two dominating periods from each team, both looked to the third to come out on top. Five minutes in, Pacioretty was sent to the box and Detroit cashed in on the power play, closing the scoring gap, 3-2.
Fleury pulled out spectacular saves after his hiccup in the first period, keeping the Golden Knights in the game as Detroit tried to steal back the lead. However, the Knights had no intention of giving it to them.
Holy smokes he got a pad on it. pic.twitter.com/BZ6qka2NX3
— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 8, 2019
With less than nine minutes remaining in the third period, Brayden McNabb added himself to the scoring sheet with his third goal of the season, giving the Knights a commanding 4-2 lead going into the final minutes of the game.
Detroit pulled Howard to give the Red Wings the man advantage in hopes of tying the game. It almost worked, but forward Thomas Vanek put one past Fleury with just three seconds left in the game, giving Vegas the 4-3 win and the .500 road trip.
The Knights finally look like the team the fans have come to know and love, and have banked some solid wins with playoffs just in the distance. They return home to T-Mobile Arena to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday at 7:00 p.m, and will play 10 out of their next 12 games at home.