The big bad Chicago Blackhawks. We all know how dominant they’ve been over the course of the last decade or so. They’ve won three Stanley Cups, are regular contenders for the Presidents’ Trophy and usually rank as one of the league’s very best teams.
This year, not so much, though. Chicago has been below average this year. Bad, even! They’re the bottom-dwellers of the Central Division with a 19-14-6 record and just 44 points on the season. The Colorado Avalanche are having a better year than the Blackhawks for crying out loud.
Clearly, things just haven’t been going Chicago’s way lately. And that continued against the Golden Knights Friday night (though it wasn’t necessarily a “good” night for Vegas, either).
Vegas dominated through 20 minutes as the Knights pelted Chicago goaltender Jeff Glass with 21 shots in the first period. As good as Glass has been for a 32-year-old rookie, he could only do so much against the Golden Knights’ early onslaught.
Alex Tuch opened up the scoring for Vegas as a puck deflected off his skate and through Glass’ five-hole.
With a little over four minutes remaining in the period, Jonathan Marchessault extended the Golden Knights’ lead to two goals as a one-timed shot deflected off a Chicago defender’s stick, trickling past Glass.
Not long after, however, Chicago responded with a goal from Vinny Hinostroza, who deflected a Brandon Saad wrister past Malcolm Subban, cutting the lead in half.
All of a sudden, momentum was on Chicago’s side after being outplayed for the better part of the opening period. However, it was Vegas who’d strike first in the middle period.
Reilly Smith shot a puck towards Glass that ricocheted off the glass and right onto William Karlsson’s stick. With a wide open net, Wild Bill made no mistake picking up his 21st goal of the year to give Vegas the 3-1 lead.
It didn’t take long before Chicago answered, though. Just two minutes later, Deryk Engelland turned the puck over while attempting a pass into the neutral zone. On a two-on-one opportunity, Patrick Sharp beat Subban cleanly over the shoulder to once again make it a one-goal game.
Another turnover would come back to haunt Vegas with less than a minute remaining in the period. William Carrier sent an errant pass toward Brayden McNabb that the Blackhawks were able to recover, creating another two-on-one situation. Hinostroza then sent a cross-ice feed to Nick Schmaltz, who buried the one-timer to knot the game up at three.
Not the period the Golden Knights were looking for. And things didn’t get off to a great start in the final third, either.
Just 30 seconds into the period, Hinostroza found Jonathan Toews flying wide open down the left wing, who beat Subban to give Chicago the 4-3 lead.
Luckily, Vegas responded a few minutes later thanks to a rocket from Cody Eakin.
Then, the play of the game. With just over six minutes remaining, Reilly Smith poked a risky Chicago pass off course to create a breakaway. One-on-one with Glass, Smith roofed the eventual game-winner to give Vegas the 5-4 lead.
The Golden Knights have played a lot of games this season and this one may have been their sloppiest effort yet. The turnovers, defensive breakdowns and careless mistakes nearly cost them a win, but they rallied in the final period to cap off their back-to-back with two points.
It may not have been pretty, but it still counts.
Vegas plays again Sunday at 6:30 p.m. PT against the New York Rangers at the T-Mobile Arena. This will be their last game until they take on the Edmonton Oilers next Saturday following their five-day bye.