Sports are pretty funny sometimes, eh? Before the season started, exactly no one expected the Vegas Golden Knights to compete for much in their inaugural campaign. But here we are! It’s January and the Golden Knights are in a tug-of-war with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the NHL. With the Lightning beating the Nashville Predators Tuesday night, the Golden Knights had a chance to narrow Tampa’s lead atop the standings with a win in their first ever contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Not only was this a big game for the Golden Knights, but it was also monumental for forward William Karlsson, who Columbus literally gave to Vegas (along with a first-round pick, a third-round pick and David Clarkson) in the expansion draft. Turns out the Blue Jackets were on the wrong end of that deal, as Karlsson leads the Golden Knights (and ranks tied for second in the NHL) in goals. Whoopsie-daisy!
As fate would have it, Karlsson would waste no time getting revenge against his former team. A little over eight minutes into the contest, Karlsson scored a greasy goal to give Vegas the 1-0 lead.
How sweet it is for the 25-year-old Swede.
The action didn’t end there for Karlsson, though. Minutes later, Reilly Smith made a fantastic defensive play on the penalty kill to spring Karlsson forward for a shorthanded breakaway. But this time, Sergei Bobrovsky stoned him.
Despite losing early momentum, Columbus didn’t end the period without an answer to Karlsson’s goal. Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno led the way through the neutral zone before sending a perfect between-the-legs drop pass to Markus Nutivaara, who beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a sick wrister from the slot.
Nutivaara’s goal kept the momentum on Columbus’ side even through the intermission. Seven minutes into the middle third, Josh Anderson scored to give the Blue Jackets the lead.
Unbeknownst to Columbus, though, their momentum would halt dead in its tracks soon after Anderson’s tally.
Just over a minute after the goal, Wild Bill got another breakaway opportunity while shorthanded. Bobrovsky answered the bell once again, but Karlsson’s chance drew a penalty and quickly shifted the momentum back in Vegas’ favor.
From that point on, there was no looking back.
In the blink of an eye, the game was tied up once again thanks to a Colin Miller bomb from the point.
Not long after Miller’s game-tying rocket, Brad Hunt (!) scored his first goal of the season to give Vegas the 3-2 lead.
And it couldn’t have been placed any better.
It wouldn’t be long before James Neal got involved, scoring his fourth goal in as many games. The rout was officially on in Vegas.
Vegas outshot Columbus 20-7 (twenty to seven!) in the second period, but the party wouldn’t end there. The dominance continued in the final third as well.
Around the halfway point of the final period, Shea Theodore redefined the stretch pass with a picture-perfect rainbowesque feed to, of course, Karlsson, who buried it to give Vegas the three-goal lead.
That’s Karlsson’s 27th of the season. Prior to joining the Golden Knights, he had never scored more than nine goals in a single campaign.
Finally, the icing on the cake. Erik Haula put the final nail in the coffin with a near-200-foot empty-netter to give Vegas the 6-3 lead.
Vegas may not have walked out of the T-Mobile Arena as the top team in the NHL like they’d hoped, but they finished the night having earning two points, thanks in large part to William Karlsson. The former Blue Jacket not only scored twice against his former team, but also played an integral role in getting Vegas back in the game when they were down on the scoreboard.
Something tells me Columbus is wishing they had him on their roster right about now.
The Golden Knights will be in action again Thursday night as they host the New York Islanders at the T-Mobile Arena, which will be their final game before the All-Star break. After the break, they’ll hit the road and head up to Alberta to take on the Calgary Flames.