In their first game back at T-Mobile Arena since Oct. 27, the Vegas Golden Knights emerged with a convincing 5-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.
Despite taking six minor penalties and winning just one-third of their faceoffs, Vegas managed to silence a Jets team that entered the game having lost just once in regulation across their past 12 contests. They even managed to chase Connor Hellebuyck from the game following the second period, a goalie who has not suffered a regulation loss since March.
With their 10th win, the Knights become just the fifth team in the NHL to reach double-digit wins and their +11 goal differential sits fourth league-wide.
William Karlsson led the way with a pair of goals in the second period — one coming on a short-handed breakaway — both of which featured assists from Reilly Smith. Those two points brought Smith’s career total up to 200, and gave him 13 for the season.
Karlsson’s short-handed effort was a thing of beauty, and came as a direct result of intelligent puck management by Smith, banking the puck off the board to himself around Kyle Connor before sending No. 71 off to the races:
“Real Deal” James Neal‘s offense had been on the downswing during the six-game road trip, finding the back of the net just once in that span. With the man advantage late in the second period, he potted a team-leading ninth goal, one that followed a string of unsuccessful power plays, including a thoroughly lifeless 5-on-3:
Literally milliseconds before this James Neal goal, I was in thinking about how James Neal needs to get back on the score sheet. pic.twitter.com/3ifyanSMzE— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 11, 2017
That’s David Perron there with the nifty stick work to conjure that scoring chance out of thin air, following by the Jets’ beleaguered defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, who goes tape-to-tape with his adversary.
Luca Sbisa, the owner of arguably the team’s best mustache, got on the board for the first time this season, converting a Perron feed for a one-timer tally. Perron also contributed a goal and is now the team leader in points with 14.
Sbisa later added a secondary assist for his eighth point, which puts him in a tie for third place among Vegas blue liners with partner Nate Schmidt, trailing Colin Miller and Deryk Engelland, who each have nine.
Engelland in particular has been a pleasant surprise on the offensive side of things this season, scoring at a rate more than double his previous best, while also taking far fewer penalties than has been typical for him.
Maxime Lagace earned his second win of the season, and first on home ice, after arguably his strongest start of the season. He saved 27 of 29 shots, including 12-of-13 short-handed. This was just his second game of seven so far this year in which he had a save percentage over .893, the other coming in Vegas’ loss to the Boston Bruins.
While he was not heavily tested for much of the game, the 24-year-old netminder did make a spectacular toe save on one of the game’s elite young players, Mark Scheifele, during the second period:
The Golden Knights' fourth-string goalie just did THIS against one of the top goal scorers in the NHL. pic.twitter.com/M2MHfGNSrz— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 11, 2017
The Sbisa-Schmidt pairing has been typically used against opposing teams’ top lines this year, and Friday was no different, as this twosome was matched with the talented triumvirate of Scheifele, Connor and Blake Wheeler for over eight minutes at even strength. Scheifele and Wheeler are two of just 14 players to have tallied over 160 points since the outset of the 2015-16 season, and the Sbisa-Schmidt pairing held them to just a 42.86 percent Corsi For Percentage.
Let’s take a look at how the whole squad performed at 5-on-5:
5v5 Corsi vs. WPG 11/10
The percentages above may be mildly misleading, because even though both teams put up nearly the same amount of 5-on-5 shots, Vegas’ were of far higher quality, as evidenced by their 1.84 expected goals compared to Winnipeg’s 0.92 (data courtesy of Corsica.Hockey).
All in all, there was a lot to like about this game for the Vegas Golden Knights. All four lines played reasonably well, their shutdown pairing kept an electric line from doing serious damage, and the fourth-string goaltender posted a .931 save percentage.
As Ice Cube would say, it was a good day.