The Vegas Golden Knights pulled off a pretty incredible win over the Calgary Flames Tuesday night. Down 2-1 with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, Vegas scored three goals in 53 seconds (the first two goals just 10 seconds apart) to defeat the Flames 4-2 in its first-ever meeting against the Pacific Division rival.
Vegas has officially reached the 70-point mark on the season, which ties the Florida Panthers and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (both during the 1993-94 season) for the most points during an inaugural campaign. And the Golden Knights still have 33 regular season games to go. Without a doubt, this is the best expansion team in hockey history. Maybe even sports history.
We learned a lot from the record-tying victory, so let’s jump right in.
1. It wasn’t Marc-Andre Fleury’s strongest outing
Fleury stopped 31 of the Flames’ 33 shots Tuesday night, which, on paper, looks great. However, Calgary didn’t exactly challenge Fleury with a ton of high-quality scoring chances. The majority of the Flames’ shots came from above the faceoff circles, and when Calgary managed to challenge Fleury from up close (which didn’t happen very often), it didn’t end well for Vegas.
It’s expected for a goalie to allow close-range goals, but Fleury was beaten badly by Matthew Tkachuk on a wrap-around attempt late in the middle period. The 20-year-old forward made him look silly (albeit aided by a Mikael Backlund trip on Nate Schmidt).
Matthew Tkachuk is extremely good. pic.twitter.com/7Tke9IzX4Q— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) January 31, 2018
This wasn’t Fleury’s only error on the night, though. His rebound control was shaky against Calgary and, if not for Vegas’ defenders limiting the Flames to shots mainly from the perimeter, this game may have ended in a much different result.
2. William Karlsson continues to dominate in all aspects of the game
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a player as dominant as Karlsson has been as of late. Wild Bill assisted on two of Vegas’ four goals Tuesday night and created several chances on his own that led to high-danger opportunities for the Golden Knights. We all know how valuable the 25-year-old Swede has been at even strength this season (22 ES goals through 49 games), but he’s been a menace on the penalty kill as well. In what seems is becoming a nightly trend, Karlsson torched the Flame’s power play unit and created a quality scoring chance from point blank while shorthanded.
I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but Karlsson’s overnight metamorphosis into an elite 200-foot playmaker has been one of the many pleasant surprises of this incredible inaugural season for the Golden Knights.
3. Jason Garrison looked solid
After being sent down to the AHL and called back up to the Golden Knights for what seems like the hundredth time since the start of 2018, Garrison certainly didn’t look out of place against the Flames. In fact, he actually looked pretty good! The 33-year-old blueliner didn’t make any eye-popping stretch passes or dish out any big hits, but he blocked three shots and played heavy minutes on the penalty kill (which successfully killed off all three of Calgary’s power play opportunities, for what it’s worth). Only Schmidt had more ice time than Garrison Tuesday night, which is a testament to how much Gerard Gallant and company trust the veteran to step in and play at a respectable level, despite spending much of the season with the Chicago Wolves.
4. Brendan Leipsic still figuring out how to score at NHL level
Leipsic is such a fun player to watch, but his inability to put the puck in the net is beyond frustrating. Against Calgary, Leipsic hit iron from point-black range after an outstanding individual effort from behind the net. This has become a bit of a habit for the 23-year-old winger. Despite frequently creating quality scoring chances, he has only managed two goals this season and continues to struggle with beating NHL goalies. This is surprising, too, considering that he had legitimate sniper status both at the junior level (88 goals in final two seasons in WHL) and in the AHL (18 goals in just 49 games with Toronto Marlies last season). Leipsic is still young, though, and is still getting used to being a regular in an NHL lineup, so there’s no reason to assume his scoring touch won’t emerge at some point down the road. But for now, it’s a nagging problem.
5. The Golden Knights clearly know how to perform in clutch situations
Vegas’ incredible comeback against Calgary is just one of the many clutch wins the Golden Knights have pulled off this season. From their last-second game-winning goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in December all the way back to their furious comeback to beat the Dallas Stars in their inaugural regular season game, the Golden Knights have shown time and time again that they know how to deliver when the pressure is on. This is obviously a good quality to have for a team destined to make a (possibly deep) playoff run.