Following a less-than-stellar season opener, the Golden Knights returned to action Saturday night to take on the Minnesota Wild — a team Vegas still had yet to defeat, as the Wild beat Vegas in all three of their meetings last season.
At first, it appeared Minnesota may be on track to win its fourth straight against Vegas. Devan Dubnyk was unbeatable and the Knights simply couldn’t convert on any of their high-danger chances. After being held scoreless for the first 58 minutes and 29 seconds of the game, though, Max Pacioretty came to the rescue with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on the bench to tie the game.
After a scoreless five-minute overtime period, Vegas took part in its first shootout of the season. And it was Erik Haula, who Minnesota allowed the Knights to claim in 2017’s expansion draft, scoring the lone shootout goal to give Vegas its first victory of the season.
Can you say poetic justice?
Minnesota opened the scoring around the midway point of the first period. Charlie Coyle escaped the pursuing Nick Holden along the half-wall and found defenseman Matt Dumba uncovered at the point, who lasered one past Marc-Andre Fleury to give Minnesota the early lead.
From there, the Golden Knights managed to respond quite well. Time and time again the Knights came dangerously close to tying the game at one goal apiece, but Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk was simply unbeatable. Despite Vegas creating numerous chances from high-danger areas, Dubnyk stood tall in net and turned aside just about everything the Knights could throw at him.
In the third period, though, it was mostly Fleury making the highlight-reel saves. After his subpar showing in the season opener, Fleury responded magnificently, stopping 26 of Minnesota’s 27 shots. And had it not been for his clutch performance in the third period, Vegas likely would have dropped their second straight.
With just a couple minutes remaining in regulation, Fleury was sent to the bench for an extra attacker. And as fate would have it, an extra attacker was just what the doctor ordered. With 1:31 remaining, forward Max Pacioretty, who was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens not even one month ago, finally beat Dubnyk with a one-timer from the left faceoff circle.
Not a bad way to begin a tenure with your new team.
Pacioretty’s goal would ultimately send this game into overtime. And thanks to a late tripping penalty on Jonathan Marchessault, the Golden Knights had to fend off a dangerous Minnesota 4-on-3 power play for the start of the OT period. Luckily, Fleury once again stepped up and made a couple big stops to force a shootout.
Much like the rest of the contest, the shootout went right down to the wire. And who better to end it than Erik Haula, who spent four seasons with the Wild before being left exposed in the expansion draft?
No one, that’s who.
It may not have been all that pretty, but the Golden Knights pulled out their first win of the season in dramatic fashion. It’s not uncommon for a hot goalie to crush a team’s confidence, but the Golden Knights stayed persistent until the very end, and it paid off.
The Golden Knights return to action Monday for an early 12 p.m. game against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Arena. The Sabres, stocked with young talent such as Jack Eichel, Rasmus Dahlin and Casey Mittelstadt, to name a few, are coming off an impressive 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers. Don’t let their reputation fool you. The Sabres won’t be an easy opponent as the Knights look to improve their record to 2-1.