On the shoulders of a fantastic performance by the second line and a 29-save shutout by Marc-Andre Fleury, the Golden Knights picked up an impressive 5-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks at T-Mobile Arena Wednesday night.
It was a game decided in the second period as the Knights scored three goals in the middle frame, lighting the lamp three times in the span of nine minutes and 10 seconds.
Cody Eakin gave Vegas a commanding 4-0 lead 9:25 into the second period with this filthy short-handed goal on a beautiful backhand shot that he sent sailing over the shoulders of Ryan Miller, who replaced John Gibson in Anaheim’s crease roughly two minutes earlier when the Ducks put a Nick Holden pass into their own net.
Absolutely disgusting backhander from Eakin. He's playing like a man possessed. That's seven goals on the year for him. pic.twitter.com/Of67H4QsAG— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 15, 2018
It was Eakin’s second goal of the game (seventh of the season) after he opened up the second-period scoring with a goal just 25 seconds into the frame off a cross-ice feed from Alex Tuch.
Six goals for Eakin already this season. This one was a beauty. pic.twitter.com/64vHc9NDdC— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 15, 2018
The assist was Tuch’s second point of the night after he got Vegas on the board on the power play late in the opening period.
GOAL. Alex Tuch opens the scoring and pots his fifth of the season. pic.twitter.com/webkFTdpeJ— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 15, 2018
This was just one of the countless stellar plays on both sides of the puck by this line, which combined for six points on the night as Tuch and Eakin extended their point streaks to four and five games, respectively; Max Pacioretty recorded two assists (including his first of the season) in his first multi-point game as a Golden Knight.
Max Pacioretty after his first multi-point game for Vegas: "It’s frustrating when you’re not contributing and the team’s not winning. ... I’m trying to do the best I can of making sure I can help the team win. ... hopefully a couple points tonight can jumpstart that." #VegasBorn— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) November 15, 2018
But the Knights couldn’t have done it without Fleury, who debuted his “golden” pads while recording a 29-save shutout, his second straight shutout on home ice and league-leading third shutout of the season.
Fleury wasn’t the only one with a bounce-back performance, though.
It’s no secret that Vegas’ third line has struggled all year, but Tomas Nosek and Tomas Hyka were effective and noticeable (in a good way) throughout the contest. Not insignificantly, Hyka picked up his first goal of the season, assisted by Nosek (his first of the year), giving the Knights a 5-0 lead 5:10 into the third period.
GOAL. Tomas Hyka scores his first of the season to make it 5-0. pic.twitter.com/x8miZVuvFe— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 15, 2018
In a first-period interview, head coach Gerard Gallant said he believed that things were starting to shift in Vegas’ favor, and he couldn’t have been more right. The Golden Knights went on to score five unanswered goals and put together one of the most successful efforts of the season despite losing the 5-on-5 Corsi battle 59-38.
However, Vegas did manage to limit Anaheim’s access to the front of the net and finished the game with a High-Danger Corsi For percentage of 53.85.
The win extends Vegas’ home winning streak to three games, improving the Knights’ overall home record to 5-2-1 on the season. Home-ice advantage was a critical component of Vegas’ success in its inaugural campaign, so if the Knights can continue to win at T-Mobile Arena, that will go a long way towards turning the season around.
Also, the second line’s effort was especially encouraging coming just hours after Gallant updated Erik Haula’s injury status to month-to-month. Though Tuch and Eakin have played very well in recent games, the developing chemistry with Pacioretty, which was on full display in tonight’s game, is a very good sign moving forward.
As well as Vegas played, however, it’s still just one game. The Knights have been unable to play last year’s version of “Golden Knights hockey” with any consistency so far this season, and it’s difficult to gauge whether tonight’s performance is an outlier or a sign of things to come.
That being said, this was a timely win for the Knights, who lost three out of four games on their recent road trip as part of an ugly 3-6-1 stretch.
Tonight’s convincing win should give the team a much-needed jolt of confidence in what has so far been a frustrating and disappointing start to the franchise’s sophomore campaign.
All things considered, Vegas sits just six points behind the division-leading San Jose Sharks and three points out of a wildcard slot. With Nate Schmidt set to return to the lineup Sunday night, the stage is set for the Knights to get their season back on track; it’s just a matter of whether they’ll take advantage of the opportunity.