Brendan Leipsic scored his first goal in a Vegas Golden Knights jersey Thursday as the Knights knocked off the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 in overtime. This was a clash between two excellent goaltenders, as both Marc-Andre Fleury (.929 save percentage) and Jonathan Quick (.923) battled it out in one of the most entertaining games of the year.
Leipsic's first Vegas goal should have been the game-winner, if not for a momentum-shifting goal by Drew Doughty, who tied the game up late, sending it to extra minutes.
David Perron, who took the penalty that got the Kings back in the game, redeemed himself in a big way, scoring the overtime goal (and actual game-winner) to give Vegas its sixth straight victory — an NHL record for an expansion team in its inaugural season.
Despite the win, the Golden Knights’ power play didn’t look great. They failed to convert on five opportunities on the man advantage. Granted, Los Angeles has the top penalty killing unit in the league, but the power play was completely uninspiring. Even though they did have some good passing.
Still, the stories of this game are Leipsic's first, Perron's redemption and the Golden Knights' ability to hold onto first place in the Pacific division, still with games in hand.
The first period was eerily reminiscent of the previous game against the Anaheim Ducks. Like the Ducks, the Kings dominated the first 15 minutes before letting the Golden Knights get their shots in during the last five.
Los Angeles was the only side to score during the first 20 minutes as Marian Gaborik had a puck deflect off his stick and past Fleury.
That was a rough start to the game eight minutes in. Gaborik, playing the role of the screener, draws two Golden Knights. That leaves a few Kings players open, which is a recipe for disaster. As Erik Haula moves off, Deryk Engelland can't stay with Gaborik.
Luckily, that was the only blood drawn in the first. Fleury had to make saves like these to keep it that way:
The Golden Knights battled back with a much better second period. They ended with more possession than they gave up, which changed the flow of the game. So did this hard-working goal from Jonathan Marchessault:
Nothing but determination, a little bit of puck luck, and, yes, persistence. Marchessault wanted that goal and he was one of the Knights forwards constantly getting chances all night. It felt only natural that Marchessault be the one to even things up. Now, if George McPhee could only get contract negotiations going with him...
The Golden Knights got the next goal in the third period after continuing to hold the puck. Leipsic, another player who had gotten chances before his goal, finally knocked a puck into the net for the first time in his Vegas career.
LEIPSIC DID THE THING. I'M SUCH A PROUD FATHER. pic.twitter.com/wYegCHTtxp— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 29, 2017
Alex Tuch is working hard, trying to get the puck into the net the same way Marchessault did. Instead, he finds Leipsic on the other side, diverts attention, passes and boom. You could see the relief on the young forward's face:
Good on Tuch for being the first to celebrate with Leipsic. The "Tuch for Captain" camp gets another point in its favor.
Unfortunately, the Kings would tie the game back up later on.
After Pierre-Edouard Bellemare had broken his stick (an event that kept happening throughout the game) he did some excellent work without it. Unfortunately, he chose the wrong time to go get a new one. That basically made it a power play, and the Kings made the Knights pay.
A gorgeous pass in an open passing lane and Doughty sends the puck in behind Fleury. Fleury can't see past the screen of Tyler Toffoli, who Engelland should have cleared, and is unable to recover. It's hard to fault Fleury with either of the goals against.
Luckily, the Golden Knights took the game with this goal from Perron in overtime:
David Perron wins it in OT! What a game. pic.twitter.com/8pz8GCsgUf— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 29, 2017
It's a great shot from Perron, right below the blocker of Quick. But Reilly Smith deserves a lot of credit for this goal as well. He passes to Perron before rushing the net and screening Quick just in time. That was hugely beneficial and led to the goal.
Ultimately, this was a game the Golden Knights had to win, and they did. They now stand alone atop the Pacific Division. They've pretty much guaranteed themselves the best first season of any expansion team, and they continue to dazzle.
Vegas now heads home to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in a New Years Eve contest. With Leipsic scoring his first goal and getting the mountain off his back, maybe he can get some revenge against his former team.