The Vegas Golden Knights’ showing against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday was one of their worst of the season. A 5-1 loss to arguably the worst team in the NHL is not an ideal way to start off a back-to-back, and the team knew they had to be better Sunday against a strong Dallas Stars team.
Luckily, the Knights did manage to rebound. Despite a scare early on in the game, Vegas wound up picking up a pair of points in their fifth straight victory on home ice. Ryan Carpenter scored for the first time this season before William Karlsson and Alex Tuch potted goals of their own in the second period. The Stars managed to make things interesting in the third period, but the Golden Knights held on and eventually potted an empty-netter to seal the deal.
Knights dodge a bullet early
The Knights ended up getting a pair of points against Dallas, but it appeared early on that Vegas could have been in for a long night.
Just 53 seconds into the contest, Stars forward Tyler Seguin beat Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with a bar-down one-timer right off the faceoff.
It appeared as if Dallas had taken the early lead, but after a video review, it was determined that the puck had never crossed the goal line.
For a team that was so deprived of luck early in the season, the Knights’ fortunes seem to have shifted dramatically as of late. A goal so early in a contest has the potential to completely change the course of a game, and for the Knights, they dodged what could have been a major turning point in favor of the Stars.
Hard work pays off for Carpenter
It hasn’t been the best start for forward Ryan Carpenter, but for the first time this season, the 27-year-old has earned a point in consecutive games. His goal late in the first period ended up being a major turning point in the contest, and the Knights fed off the momentum.
While points are finally starting to come for Carpenter, it would be disrespectful not to mention how well Vegas’ entire third line has played recently. The trio of Carpenter, Tomas Nosek and Oscar Lindberg was Vegas’ most efficient line at 5-on-5 against both Dallas and Los Angeles this weekend, and Knights head coach Gerard Gallant has taken notice.
“They’ve played really well lately and it’s good to see Ryan Carpenter score that goal,” said Gallant. “[Saturday] it was Lindberg scoring a goal. I like the way they are playing. They give you confidence out there and that’s what we need from our team. We are going to be successful with everybody going every night. I thought we got that tonight and that line has been real good for us lately.”
Power play successful (kind of)
The Golden Knights were granted five opportunities on the power play Sunday night and only managed to convert on one of them — an empty-net goal by Reilly Smith with time dying down in regulation. However, the power play was directly responsible for both of Vegas’ goals in the second period.
A little after the game’s midway point, William Karlsson scored just as the power play expired to give Vegas the 2-1 lead.
A little later on, Alex Tuch doubled Vegas’ lead just seconds after Dallas had “killed off” a roughing penalty to Brett Ritchie.
While the power play only gets credit for Smith’s empty-netter, the sustained pressure in the offensive zone led to a pair of hugely important goals. It wasn’t a perfect night for the power play by any means, but the Knights did end up doing enough on the man advantage to make a significant difference.
Penalty kill not at its best, but steps up during crunch time
The Golden Knights’ penalty kill has been nothing short of spectacular all season. Recently, though, the NHL’s sixth-ranked PK has struggled a bit. The Kings were successful in their lone opportunity on the power play on Saturday, and Dallas wound up scoring a pair of power-play goals on Sunday as well.
While the PK wasn’t at the top of its game this weekend, however, it still played a major role in Vegas getting the victory against Dallas.
With 7:44 to go in regulation, defenseman Shea Theodore took double minor for high-sticking Dallas’ Taylor Fedun. The game rested on the shoulders of the PK, and the unit stepped up big time, successfully killing off the four-minute penalty with relative ease. Once the penalty was killed off, the Knights fed off of the momentum and didn’t look back.
“Everyone had a ton of energy, honestly,” said Tuch. “Even the guys who killed the penalty for three, four minutes were up and at ‘em, ready to go again. You know what, it was a great job by our penalty kill, great job by Flower to kill off the four minutes, and I think that was one of the big keys to winning tonight.”
Fleury rebounds after poor outing in Los Angeles
Marc-Andre Fleury’s performance against the Kings on Saturday is one he’d certainly like to forget. On 25 Los Angeles shots, Fleury managed to stop only 20 of them, and there were certainly a couple he’d like to have back.
Luckily, Fleury was much better in net against the Stars. Fleury stopped 22 of Dallas’ 24 shots on goal and made numerous big-time stops for Vegas, including a save on a Tyler Seguin breakaway in the second period.
Prior to puck drop, there was a bit of uncertainty regarding who would be starting in net for Vegas. Backup netminder Malcolm Subban hasn’t seen action since Nov. 19 — a 7-2 beatdown in Alberta — and with Fleury coming off a subpar performance against the Kings, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see the Knights turn to 24-year-old Subban against Dallas. However, Fleury did end up getting the starting nod, and it paid off.
“He is playing great. He is giving us a chance to win all the time and he is playing great,” said Gallant. “We aren’t in first place like we were last year, and we are trying to catch teams. When a guy plays that good, he is going to play.”