It’s been a rough week for the Golden Knights. After putting together their first three-game winning streak of the season, the Knights dropped two straight against the Vancouver Canucks (via shootout) and Tampa Bay Lightning, respectively. Sunday night, Vegas was just trying to avoid its second three-game losing streak of the season.
And much to the chagrin of the Ottawa Senators, the Knights did just that.
Ottawa forward Matt Duchene opened the scoring early in the first period by knocking home a loose puck through heavy traffic. As the period’s only tally, it wouldn’t be until the second period that Vegas would finally get on the board, but not before Bobby Ryan extended Ottawa’s lead to two goals.
And then Alex Tuch and Ryan Reaves happened.
Late in the middle frame, Tuch blazed past the Ottawa defense and scored a beauty to mark his first goal of the season. Not long after, Reaves scored his third of the season (also the first power-play point of his 10-year career) to tie the game at two goals apiece.
The momentum was heavily in Vegas’ favor entering the final third, but that didn’t keep Ryan Dzingel from giving his team the 3-2 lead about midway through the third. However, the Golden Knights answered right back as Tuch scored his second of the night to knot the game up again.
Of course, three periods wouldn’t be enough to settle things.
About halfway through the game’s 3-on-3 overtime period, Jonathan Marchessault drew a penalty while on a breakaway, resulting in the first penalty shot attempt of his career. In true Marchessault fashion, the 27-year-old forward was calm and collected on his one-on-one opportunity with Sens goalie Craig Anderson, and he made it count, ultimately earning the Knights a hard-fought win in their final contest of a five-game homestand.
Alex Tuch has first big game of the season
Tuch was playing in his third game of the season Sunday night and had yet to score his first goal. The 22-year-old had come close a couple times, but no luck.
Finally, though, Tuch managed to find twine not once, but twice against Ottawa. Not only were his first two goals of the season huge momentum-shifters for Vegas, but his first of the pair should likely go down as one of the prettiest goals of his young career.
“The whole line was good,” said Knights head coach Gerard Gallant after the game. “Tuch played excellent. Those two goals were real big, but he was skating and shooting the puck. I thought that line was outstanding tonight.”
Some were a little surprised at the seven-year, $33.25 million contract Tuch was awarded earlier this month, but despite the small sample size, this is exactly the kind of play the Knights have fallen in love with, and it’s not hard to see why Vegas was so adamant about locking up the Syracuse native long-term.
Ryan Reaves stands out again
Few Golden Knights players have been playing as well as Reaves has to start the season. The 31-year-old bruiser has been nothing short of spectacular, and that didn’t change against the Senators.
Just a couple minutes after Tuch’s first goal of the game, Reaves scored his third of the last four games. But with this goal, he did something he’s never done before in his decade-long NHL career — he scored on the power play.
The opportunity was created by defenseman Colin Miller, who fired a wrister toward Anderson from the point. Waiting for a rebound on the doorstep was Reaves, who had a mostly open net to shoot at as Anderson attempted to recover from the initial save.
“He really gets us going,” said Tuch. “He’s got a lot of energy and enthusiasm and he’s a great locker room guy too. Having him score, you see how hard he works. And everyone says, ‘Oh, he’s a fighter, he’s a fighter,’ and now he’s on the power play scoring power-play goals.”
“He’s been an unbelievable player for us, especially this season. He’s scoring some big goals for us, but I’m gonna make sure he keeps going, though,” Tuch said laughing.
Marchessault the hero
Jonathan Marchessault has had quite the impressive start to the season. He’s averaging a point per game and continues to showcase himself as arguably the best player on Vegas’ roster.
Naturally, it was Marchessault who scored the game-winner against Ottawa in spectacular fashion.
After the game, though, Marchessault’s comments would have made you think Vegas had just lost the game. But Marchessault is a perfectionist, and in his mind, there’s always something to improve upon.
“We really needed that game,” said Marchessault. “It’s not where we wanted to be as a group to start the year, but all teams face adversity in the year. We have a lot of injuries right now, it’s no excuse. We’ve gotta see it as guys need to step up and I think we all do need to step up. Especially for myself. A 2-2 game, with that many chances, we need to find the back of the net at some point.”
And he did find the back of the net. To win the game, no less.
Anderson kept things interesting
The Golden Knights very well could have won this game by multiple goals, but Senators goaltender Craig Anderson was lights-out and made the game much closer than it probably should have been.
Vegas registered a ridiculous 53 shots on goal (a franchise high) against Anderson’s squad Sunday night. And Vegas not only tested him frequently, but regularly from high-danger areas.
While it was certainly a disappointing loss for Anderson, the 37-year-old seemed to be in pretty good spirits after the game. Especially when talking about the energy in T-Mobile Arena.
“We love playing in this building,” said Anderson. “Easy to get up for. Easy as far as energy level. It’s just a fun place to be, fun place to play, and just enjoy the moment. We kind of rode the wave, and unfortunately just didn’t come out on top.”
Eakin injured, and Merrill answers the bell
Late in the first period, Knights forward Cody Eakin took a hard hit up high from Ottawa defenseman Mark Borowicki. Eakin did not return to the game, and with the Knights travelling to Nashville for their game against the Predators on Tuesday, Eakin’s status is still uncertain.
Fresh off a one-game suspension for elbowing Boston Bruins defenseman Urho Vaakanainen, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that Borowiecki is hearing from the Department of Player Safety once again.
Ottawa’s Mark Borowiecki has been suspended for three games for an illegal check to the head on Vegas’ Cody Eakin. https://t.co/5RHsOXSzXE— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) October 30, 2018
Stepping up to Borowiecki in defense of Eakin was, of all people, Jon Merrill. Merrill didn’t do too great in his dance with Borowiecki, but his willingness to step in certainly didn’t go unnoticed.
“Obviously stepping up for his teammates, it was real big,” said Gallant. “Jonny’s not a big fighter, but when your teammate gets run over like that, he stepped up and it was perfect. Exactly what you have to do.”