In their wildly successful inaugural season, the Vegas Golden Knights managed to beat just about every team in the NHL at least once.
Except for the New York Islanders.
New York defeated Vegas both times they met last season, starting with a 6-3 thumping in Barclays Center followed by a 2-1 loss just a few months later.
In the Knights’ first opportunity to beat the Islanders this season, though, they took full advantage. It wasn’t exactly pretty, but for the first time in Knights history, they picked up a pair of points against the team that had previously given them fits.
Marchessault sets the tone
It didn’t take the Knights long to get on the board Wednesday night. Almost immediately after puck drop, Casey Cizikas was sent to the box for a high-sticking. Just 15 seconds into the man advantage (and 34 seconds into the contest), Jonathan Marchessault scored his 12th of the season to give Vegas the early lead.
This would be Vegas’ only power play of the night, but Marchessault made the most of the opportunity. He is now tied with William Karlsson for first on the Knights with four power-play goals through 33 games. And on a night where Vegas could hardly even buy a shot on goal, his early tally made a pretty significant difference.
Third line saves the day
The trio of Oscar Lindberg, Ryan Carpenter and Tomas Nosek has really been clicking as of late, and for the third game in a row, that line managed to contribute on the scoresheet. Granted, the goal, scored by Nosek, wasn’t very pretty (especially for Islanders goaltender Robin Lehner), but a goal’s a goal.
Though the third line produced the game-winner, however, it wasn’t exactly the best night for the trio — at least in terms of play-driving. Lindberg, Carpenter and Nosek averaged a downright horrific 27.55 Corsi For percentage at 5-on-5 against the Islanders and allowed numerous high-danger chances. Luckily, New York only managed to take advantage of a pair of their quality chances.
Fleury stellar once again
The obvious reason why the Islanders had such a hard time converting on their scoring chances was the excellent play of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Despite making his 11th straight start, the 34-year-old netminder showed no signs of fatigue and stopped 23 of New York’s 25 shots.
The Isles didn’t take it easy on him, either. Fleury had to make some huge stops Wednesday night, including this big-time save on Josh Bailey from point-blank range.
Fleury has now won in nine of his last 11 games and continues to lead all NHL goaltenders in wins (18), shutouts (5) and time on ice (nearly 130 minutes more than Craig Anderson, the second-ranked goalie).
Defense sloppy despite only allowing two goals
Fleury’s performance was excellent, but it could have been even better had Vegas’ defenders played to the level they’re typically capable of.
Not long after Marchessault opened the scoring, Anthony Beauvillier tied the game up when he was left completely uncovered in front of the Vegas net. With Johnny Boychuk skating along the endboards, Nick Holden was caught puck watching while Colin Miller seemingly chose to ignore Beauvillier’s existence. Before Fleury even knew what hit him, the puck was past the goal line.
A bad defensive lapse directly led to New York’s second goal as well. For some reason, Ryan Reaves, a forward, was left all alone to cover Mathew Barzal a 2-on-1 rush. As anyone would expect, that didn’t turn out too great for the Golden Knights. Once again, it was Holden who blew his coverage and allowed the rush up ice. Nate Schmidt also let the two Islanders forwards get past him, but at least made an effort to redirect Barzal’s drop pass with his stick.
It wasn’t a great performance defensively for the Golden Knights. Luckily for them neither team was capable of getting many shots on net.
Which brings us to our next point.
Shots few and far between for Vegas
The Knights only managed to get a season-low 17 shots on net Wednesday night. While they did manage to get a couple solid opportunities down low, their three goals were really a result of poor goaltending and turnovers more so than effective play in the offensive zone.
“It wasn’t a pretty game by no means,” said Knights head coach Gerard Gallant. “I think there were very few shots for both teams, but that’s what you want to do when you go on the road and anytime you can get two points and leave New York, it’s good for us.”
The Knights have been quite poor on the road this season, winning only eight of 19 total contests away from home. Luckily, Vegas has a solid opportunity to gain some more momentum on this road trip when they take on the New Jersey Devils on Friday. The Devils are currently the worst team in the Eastern Conference with just 26 points through 29 games.