One of the Vegas Golden Knights’ biggest issues this season has been consistency. They’ve had a hard time stringing wins together thus far, and it’s hurt their spot in the standings.
Luckily, though, it appears that could be changing.
The Golden Knights defeated the Calgary Flames in a 2-0 victory on Friday that resulted in the team winning consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 20. Saturday night, a little over 24 hours after their win against Calgary, Vegas kept the streak alive with another victory — and another shutout. This time, Vegas took down the San Jose Sharks in a crucial Pacific Division showdown at T-Mobile Arena to earn its 12th win of the season.
And, of course, another free dozen doughnuts.
Fleury perfect again
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury joked after the game that he feels bad for forcing Krispy Kreme to give away free doughnuts more often than even he was expecting, but that’s a pretty good problem to have for the 33-year-old (who turns 34 on Wednesday).
Despite coming off a big shutout win just 24 hours before his outing against San Jose, Fleury turned aside all 33 shots the Sharks fired in his direction. And he had to make a couple dandies in the process, including one that (unofficially) assisted William Carrier in scoring his fourth goal of the season.
“It’s good to get two games in two nights against division rivals,” said Fleury after the game. “Games that mean a lot right now. We’re starting to climb up, make our way back in the standings. It’s fun. Two games at home, get a couple wins, it’s nice.”
In Vegas’ last three games, Fleury has stopped 81 of 83 shots. His 12 wins on the season ties the league lead while he leads the NHL comfortably with five shutouts through 21 starts.
Pacioretty keeps the point streak alive
Forward Max Pacioretty had a very slow start to the season, but he’s picked up steam over the last couple of weeks. The 30-year-old winger has scored six goals in his last five games (including a pair against San Jose) and picked up a total of nine points since Vegas’ game against the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 14.
Pacioretty, a five-time 30-goal scorer, is suddenly on pace to finish the season with around 30 goals once again. And while his slow start certainly was a bit discouraging, sometimes patience really is the best cure for a scoring drought.
“[They’re] just going in,” said Pacioretty. “I trust the process here. I trust our system. I trust the coaches and the people in charge, and when they tell you to keep at it and the puck will go in, the floodgates will open.”
First line effective
Vegas’ top line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith hasn’t made quite the impact this season as it did last year, but that’s no to say the line has been ineffective. Marchessault, Karlsson and Smith have all remained some of Vegas’ top point producers, and performances like Saturday night’s are what make it easy to understand why some refer to the line as “The Untouchables.”
After all, it was this trio that opened the scoring just 14 seconds into the contest (a record for the fastest goal scored in team history). Granted, there was a bit of luck involved, but after having virtually zero luck for much of the first quarter of the season, this goal feels not only admissible, but to another degree, even earned.
Members of the first line combined for four points against San Jose, with Smith leading the way with a pair of assists. And had it not been for a couple of big stops by Aaron Dell, the first-liners could have been even more productive.
Sharks lose control
The Golden Knights pretty much had this game in the bag at puck drop. After all, it’s not often that a team scores 14 seconds into a game and ends losing that contest. The Knights fed off of the early momentum and delivered arguably their best performance of the season.
The Sharks, on the other hand, faltered, allowing their emotions to get the better of them. In the second period, Sharks forward Evender Kane was assessed a two-minute minor for a high stick. Immediately after exiting the box, Kane laid a questionable hit on Vegas forward Tomas Nosek, which drew another penalty that Kane wasn’t too happy about.
Kane was subsequently given a 10-minute penalty for abuse of officials and a game misconduct.
“I don’t know what they called it,” said Kane. “Guy has the puck, I step in his lane, hip on hip. It’s a 5-0 hockey game.”
Shortly thereafter, Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer was given the boot as well, which, naturally, he also too thrilled about.
“I didn’t even swear, I just asked [the official], ‘Did that feel good? Kicking Evander out under these circumstances?’ and that was enough, I guess. I guess he wanted another victim.”
In the third period, another San Jose forward was sent to the locker room early when Barclay Goodrow was assessed an unsportsmanlike penalty to go along with a game misconduct of his own.
While the Sharks were never really competitive in this game to begin with, their in-game actions certainly didn’t do the team any favors. It was a rough outing for Vegas’ division rival, and San Jose’s frustration allowed the Knights to coast past them in what turned out to be a largely uneventful third period.
Vegas looks like Vegas again
Your eyes are not deceiving you. After weeks of playing some sluggish hockey, the Golden Knights are finally playing a game similar to what we saw from them last season. They were playing fast, jumping on turnovers and taking advantage of the scoring opportunities that were given to them, and it was a welcome sight after an inconsistent start to the season.
“We played our game tonight. It was great,” said head coach Gerard Gallant. “Obviously we got a break early with that first goal. It was a lucky break, but the puck went in the net early in the game and our team responded from that. And like I said, I thought we played an excellent hockey game. We played a really good hockey team over there and we played the type of game we’re used to playing. Fast game, it was a quick game. We were real competitive.”
The Golden Knights will need to continue playing that game, too. The Knights embark on a three-game road trip starting with a stop in Chicago on Tuesday before they travel to Vancouver and Edmonton for a pair of crucial interdivisional matchups. Vegas has been good against its division rivals this season (6-1-1), and the coming week will serve as another opportunity to continue its ascent up the Pacific standings.