Brandon Pirri netted the game-winning goal in the third period, and Paul Stastny picked up two points in the hard-fought win.
After consecutive overtime losses, there were some concerning moments when Vegas took back-to-back penalties with a one-goal lead late in the third. But Marc-Andre Fleury and the penalty kill came up huge, helping the Knights earn two points in the final home game of 2018.
The Knights had to shake off some rust early in the first and eventually fell behind when Colorado struck on the power play just five seconds into the man advantage.
But Stastny tied things up less than two minutes later thanks to a strong play by Nate Schmidt to keep the play alive at the blue line. Schmidt fed the puck to Alex Tuch, who found Stastny on the doorstep.
GOAL. Paul Stastny bats one past Grubauer to tie the game up. pic.twitter.com/FuczdgKXFQ— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 28, 2018
Despite outshooting Colorado 15-7 in the second period, Vegas was unable to get one by Philipp Grubauer in a scoreless middle frame. Then it was Colorado’s turn to bring the heat early in the third, but Fleury was up to the challenge and made several key stops to keep the game tied.
That gave Vegas enough time to take the lead at 10:11 of the third, courtesy of none other than Pirri, who beat Grubauer with a seeing-eye shot from just inside the blue line.
GOAL. Brandon Pirri gives Vegas the lead. pic.twitter.com/du3P5yE1tJ— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 28, 2018
Stastny got the primary assist on the play, giving the birthday boy two points against his former team.
Two late penalties put this one in jeopardy, especially considering Colorado boasts the fourth-best power play in the league and needed just five seconds to convert on a first-period opportunity. But Fleury made several outstanding stops, including this one, to secure the 2-1 win.
Fleury makes a huge save on Rantanen. pic.twitter.com/PRuBu0AJsQ— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 28, 2018
It was yet another strong night for Fleury, who made 31 saves to improve his league-leading wins total to 21.
The fact that Vegas was able to keep Colorado’s high-flying top line off the scoresheet at even strength is no easy feat. It says a lot about the team-wide effort put forth by Vegas, and it’s a testament to the bounce-back performance by Fleury, especially since Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon trailed only Nikita Kucherov in league scoring entering tonight’s game.
That’s not to say that Grubauer didn’t have an outstanding game at the other end of the rink; the Knights peppered him with 43 shots, 19 of which were high-danger chances (as evidenced by the red circle in front of the net below).
But while Grubauer managed a .953 save percentage, it wasn’t enough to slow down Vegas’ second line of Pirri, Stastny and Tuch, who combined for four points and finished the game with Corsi For percentages of 66.67, 66.67 and 68.00, respectively.
Pirri continues to be a catalyst for Vegas and now has at least a point in every game he’s played in a Golden Knights sweater, including four goals and five points in four games this season. He even had some good looks on the power play in the third period, though Vegas went 0-for-4 on the man advantage.
It was a strong overall effort by the Golden Knights, who remain in the third divisional playoff spot with a 21-15-4 record. They now have a three-point lead over Anaheim but were unable to gain ground on Calgary or San Jose, who both won tonight as well.
The Knights will close out 2018 on the road in Los Angeles and Arizona this weekend.