The Vegas Golden Knights capped off 2017 as the hottest team in the NHL, going 11-1-1 in the month of December and ascending their way to the top of the Western Conference standings.
Not a bad way to end the year!
That was then, though. December is over now and the Golden Knights were greeted into the new year by a Nashville Predators team looking to claim the top spot in the Central Division.
The last (and first) time the Golden Knights took on the Predators, Vegas walked out of the Bridgestone Arena with two points after a thrilling shootout victory over the defending Western Conference champions. Goaltender Malcolm Subban stopped every shot thrown his way in the shootout and earned major bragging rights over his older brother P.K. Subban in the interfamilial clash.
While we wouldn’t be graced with another battle of the Subbans Tuesday night, we did get to watch a fun goaltender duel between Marc-Andre Fleury and Pekka Rinne.
After 20 minutes, neither team could get on the board as both Fleury and Rinne made some clutch saves to keep the game scoreless. The biggest save of the period, despite only facing four shots through 20 minutes, came from Fleury. Not long after the period’s midway point, Subban sent a nifty backhand pass to the slot, but Fleury made a terrific pad save to keep the puck out of harm’s way.
And let’s not forget about Rinne, who was pelted with 15 shots in the first period. The Golden Knights had plenty of quality opportunities, but Rinne neutralized all of them with ease.
He also got a little help from the post after Reilly Smith had a puck bounce off his leg.
The second period was a completely different story, however. This time, it was Fleury getting pelted by shots. And he stopped all 13 of them.
The same cannot be said for Rinne. The Golden Knights finally solved the 35-year-old netminder to get on the board. Two times.
Smith would be the first to get one past Rinne. Skating with space down the left wing, Smith caught Rinne readying for a pass to Alex Tuch in the slot. Instead of making that pass, Smith banked the puck off of Rinne and past the goal line to give Vegas the 1-0 lead.
Just 1:31 later, Shea Theodore, who’s been on a tear as of late, scored his fourth goal of the season to double the Vegas lead. Tuch was in Rinne’s grill on this goal as well. And even though he took a couple good whacks at Rinne, the puck trickled past the goal line without aid from Tuch.
Down 2-0 with just 20 minutes to go, Nashville would need a big period to tie the game back up.
Much to their chagrin, though, that wouldn’t happen.
Vegas continued to suffocate the Predators in their own zone throughout the third period and minimize the amount of shots sent in Fleury’s direction.
Nashville tried to make use of a late power play by pulling Rinne to create a two-man advantage, but nothing would come of it. Moments later, Jonathan Marchessault sealed it with an empty net goal, extending his point streak to seven games.
Oh, and for the second time in his last three starts, Fleury got himself a shutout against one of the better teams in the league. You know what that means? Free donuts!
For those keeping count (everyone), that’s eight straight wins for the Golden Knights.
That’s tied for the longest streak of the 2017-18 NHL season.
Vegas now sits pretty at the top of the Pacific Division and Western Conference with 56 points in 38 games.
It’s a new year, but nothing’s changed about the Golden Knights’ inconceivable inaugural season.
The Knights have a tough back-to-back coming up before getting a five-day break next week. Thursday evening at 5 p.m. PT, the Golden Knights travel to the Scottrade Center to take on the St. Louis Blues. Friday at 5:30 p.m. PT, they take on the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center. Without a doubt, this will be a great test for Vegas as they look to further extend their win streak.