The Vegas Golden Knight’s Friday night contest against the Nashville Predators was jam-packed with quality subplots. For the very first time, Golden Knights goaltender Malcolm Subban took on his older brother P.K. Subban in a regular season game. On top of that, forward James Neal got the chance to take on his former team for the first time since being claimed by the Golden Knights in last summer’s expansion draft.
Oh, and some guy named David Perron was back in the Vegas lineup, too. So that’s fun!
The main storyline, though, was the Golden Knights’ attempt at gaining ground on the Los Angeles Kings, who sit atop the Pacific Division with 41 points. Three other Pacific teams (San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames) trail the Golden Knights by just three points, so a win over Nashville would provide a much-needed cushion between the chasing teams in the division as well.
Naturally, however, the Subban showdown stole the limelight.
Early on, it was Malcolm who appeared to be the better Subban on the night. Subban was pelted by shots in the game’s first 20 minutes, including one from his brother. None of them would get past the younger Subban brother, though he did manage to give Golden Knights fans a scare when he bobbled a puck within reach of a lurking Predator.
Nevertheless, he kept Nashville off the scoresheet.
The same cannot be said about Predators netminder Pekka Rinne, however. After a penalty to Craig Smith within the game’s first seven minutes, William Karlsson scored off a gorgeous feed from Alex Tuch to give Vegas the early lead.
After 20 minutes of play, the Golden Knights led Nashville with a 1-0 lead. The second period, however, is where Nashville shines. No team in the league has been more productive in the middle third this season.
Not on this night, though!
In true poetic fashion, James Neal managed to extend Vegas’ lead by two goals late in the period. Luca Sbisa, in an attempt to put a shot on net, deflected a puck off a defender’s skate, which ricocheted directly to Neal, who one-timed it past Rinne.
Meanwhile, Malcolm continued to be the better Subban, making multiple impressive saves throughout the middle period.
Unlike the first period, though, he was unable to stay perfect in the second, as he allowed a goal to Calle Jarnkrok that cut the lead in half.
With Nashville winless in games trailed after 40 minutes this season, it would appear Vegas had this one in the bag once the second period ended.
But they didn’t!
Viktor Arvidsson got one past Subban early in the third to knot the game up at two. Gerard Gallant challenged the goal in hopes of the officials reversing it for goaltender interference, but the tally stood.
Later on, the Preds scored their third unanswered goal to take a 3-2 lead. This time, it was Nick Bonino beating Subban from point blank after an ugly turnover from Shea Theodore.
Vegas’ momentum looked completely lost after Bonino’s tally. Making matters even worse, the Golden Knights had no timeout after losing the challenge on Arvidsson’s goal, so the remainder of regulation would have to be largely improvised.
But it worked out!
Mr. Clutch himself (Erik Haula) tied the game up with 39 seconds remaining in regulation off a gorgeous cross-ice pass from Colin Miller. This game was headed to overtime.
After neither team was able to put the game away in OT, the Golden Knights would head to their second shootout in as many games.
In case you needed a refresher, Subban didn’t allow a single shootout goal in the Knights’ 4-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks Tuesday. And that trend wouldn’t be broken against Nashville, despite facing six different shooters.
In the final round of the sudden death shootout, it was Reilly Smith who stuck the fork in Nashville to give Vegas its third straight victory.
It’ll be talked about all weekend, but this must have been one of the sweetest wins of Subban’s early tenure as a Golden Knight. It’s one thing to beat your former team (which he did in October), but there’s something about a sibling rivalry that really takes the cake. Not only did Subban beat his older brother, but he put on one of his best performances of the season in front of his dad, stopping 41 shots and batting a thousand in the shootout.
And let’s also not forget about Neal. Despite being one of Nashville’s best players during their run to the Stanley Cup Final, the Preds chose to leave him unprotected in the expansion draft, which Vegas took full advantage of. While Neal surely has some good memories dating back to his time with the Predators, it must have felt incredible to score a goal and eventually pull out two points against them.
And for those wondering about Perron’s performance in his first game back from injury:
David Perron in his return to the lineup: 20:17, one shot, one assist (on the Haula goal).— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) December 9, 2017
The Golden Knights are now 18-9-1 on the season and trail the division-leading Kings by four points with two games in hand. Vegas will head back west overnight as they get set to take on the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center Saturday evening.