In some ways, this game played out like Friday’s tangle with the Dallas Stars.
The Golden Knights trailed 1-0 until more than halfway through the third period before some last-minute heroics, first from Nate Schmidt, and then by last night’s savior, James Neal.
The main difference, though, is that tonight the Vegas Golden Knights were clearly the superior team, outshooting the Arizona Coyotes 42-28, and out-attempting them 85-57 in all situations. A woeful second period in Texas was replaced by a out-and-out dominant middle frame, where the Golden Knights did everything they could but put one in the back of the net.
Eventually, with Marc-Andre Fleury pulled, the Golden Knights were able to get their first tally with just 1:12 left in regulation, after Schmidt pounced on a loose puck and jammed it in.
Schmidt may have officially received the second star from Arizona media, but he often appeared to be the best player on the ice for many stretches, and head coach Gerard Gallant took notice, giving the 25-year-old defenseman a career-high 25:18 of icetime. After a season opener that saw Schmidt struggle to control both the puck, as well as gaps, the young blue liner showed massive improvements in his all-around game.
But Schmidt was not the only one who rose to the occasion. The Flower put in another first-rate performance, stopping 25 of 26 shots in regulation before adding another two in overtime, both of which were high-danger stops, coming on point-blank attempts from Clayton Keller and Anthony Duclair.
To give credit where credit is due, his goaltending counterpart, Antti Raanta, was arguably just as valuable, turning away 40 of 42 shots. The most impressive of those came during Vegas’ high-octane second period that saw them outshoot the Coyotes, 18-6:
Neal, as mentioned before, again played the role of hero, netting the game-winner in overtime following a smart David Perron assist off the back boards. Despite being a game-time decision less than 36 hours ago for the season opener, the 30-year-old winger looks to be in mid-season form with three tallies to his name already.
While a second straight victory is cause for jubilation among Knights fans, the power play is still largely impotent, currently standing at 0-for-11 this season. According to Natural Stat Trick, Vegas has had the man advantage for 20:46 this season, more than all but two teams — the Philadelphia Flyers and the Ottawa Senators — yet they ranked tied for 22nd in high-danger scoring chances while on the power play.
That is simply not going to cut it in the long term. Timely scoring and superlative showings by Fleury may win a few games, but it is not a viable strategy moving forward. Fortunately for the Golden Knights, their penalty kill has looked excellent, ranking in the top-fifth in the league at suppressing shot attempts so far.
The Knights may be playing fast and loose hockey out there, but as Gallant said the night before, “Anytime we get a ‘W,’ I’ll take it.”
Other Knights of note:
- Perron and Erik Haula led the Knights with five shots each and Jason Garrison blocked five as well.
- Deryk Engelland and Brayden McNabb proved to be a formidable shutdown pair, posting a Corsi For Percentage of 70% for the night, just a day after they dragged down the Knights blue line with a 22.7% mark against Dallas.
- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was excellent in the face-off circle, winning seven of nine draws. The team as a whole won 61 percent.
- Although the bottom-six continues to struggle, William Carrier and Brendan Leipsic made their presence felt, recording five and four hits respectively.