The Vegas Golden Knights did it. After an extended rough patch, the Golden Knights won another game. They didn’t rely on their first line to do it, either. Actually, none of Vegas’ first-line players had any points.
Instead, the three goals that catapulted the Golden Knights to a 3-0 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes came from Ryan Reaves, Brad Hunt and William Carrier. The fourth line scored two goals and the third defensive pairing added the other one. When taking bets this summer, everyone totally placed chips on Hunt being the second Golden Knights defenseman to score this season. Of course they did.
This was a game the Knights won by getting the bounces they’ve needed all season as well as Marc-Andre Fleury actually living up to his prime Flower form with a 34-save shutout, the 50th shutout of his career. The Fleury the Knights had last season was back in the crease, and hopefully it’s for more than one game. Plus, everybody gets doughnuts thanks to his stellar performance.
The Golden Knights kicked off the scoring with this excellent goal from Hunt:
GOAL. Just after going the entire power play without a goal, Brad Hunt gets one past Scott Darling. pic.twitter.com/1ubTtno8Mo— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 4, 2018
There are a few notable things about this goal. For one thing, it’s scored from the high-danger area after Hunt goes through the royal road (the middle stretch of the ice). Secondly, the goal comes off an excellent pass from Erik Haula, who played well throughout the game. Also, the goal is a result of a cycle involving most members of the second line, which also played well.
Hunt does what the Knights defensemen need to do more of — get to a high-danger area and shoot the puck. That’s why the Knights have just two goals from defensemen this season, but doing what Hunt did will likely lead to more in the future.
The Knights would have to wait until the second period to get their next goal, but it, too, came from the high-danger area:
GOAL. Art Ross candidate Ryan Reaves scores his fourth of the season. pic.twitter.com/7xHF86I4Ic— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 4, 2018
Again, a royal road shot from Shea Theodore leads to a rebound, which Reaves puts in the net from the high-danger area for his fourth goal of the season. That’s why the fourth line has been one of the best lines all season for Vegas: they’re able to get to those high-traffic areas and generate positive chances.
Finally, Carrier joined in on the fun by scoring from the high-danger area as well:
GOAL. The fourth line continues to produce as William Carrier scores his first of the season. pic.twitter.com/5gGtS9xq3e— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 4, 2018
That’s a bounce the puck has not taken this season for the Golden Knights. In most games, the puck would have taken some weird bounce off Scott Darling and hit the post and re-directed. Here, though, Carrier’s able to push it through. Not bad for the man with no hands.
This game was an exciting one, even with Vegas getting out-possessed by a heavy margin (at 5-on-5, it was 52-42 Corsi for Carolina, 27-21 shots). But the Knights scored the goals, which is what they’ve been needing to do for quite some time.
More importantly, they relied on depth scoring and Fleury’s strong play to get the win. For once, it actually worked.
How exactly did Vegas win this one? It doesn’t make a ton of sense, does it? Vegas was outshot, out-possessed and went 0-for-4 on the power play. The Knights even lost the high-danger battle. So how does Vegas win in this situation, especially when considering the rest of the season?
It all comes down to Fleury’s ability to make saves in this game. While the Hurricanes were able to generate high-danger chances throughout the night — 12 chances, to be exact — Fleury wasn’t as heavily screened as he has been this season, and there were far fewer breakaways.
Fleury with another pair of crucial stops. pic.twitter.com/Aze3bvAtLH— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 4, 2018
Nice work by Nick Holden to get in the way of this Svechnikov chance. pic.twitter.com/a4lzwu9bqZ— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 4, 2018
With the defense stepping up, Flower was able to see more shots and didn’t have to worry about the cross-ice pass as much, which led to more success (a.k.a. a 34-save shutout). Fleury usually stops what he sees, and he was able to see more tonight with fewer blind-side chances in this game. Even with the sheer number of shots and chances the Hurricanes generated, Vegas did a good job of controlling them.
There was also a significant change in puck luck in this game.
Michael Ferland nearly got Carolina on the board. pic.twitter.com/Tcus5TYRxu— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) November 4, 2018
Too often this season, it’s been Vegas hitting the post in that situation. But tonight, the hockey gods flipped it upside down.
Vegas also generated a number of rebounds throughout the game, with Hunt, Theodore and Brayden McNabb each generating a rebound and Jonathan Marchessault, Ryan Carpenter and Reaves each getting a shot attempt off a rebound.
Vegas also scored from the same place: directly in front of the net.
That’s what the Golden Knights need to focus on from now on. Better defense in their own end and more offensive chances from in front of the net. That’s how they win.
Vegas heads back out on the road Tuesday night to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs to kick off a four-game road trip. The Knights will look to build on this win and get back to .500.