The Golden Knights beat the Chicago Blackhawks for the second time this season thanks to a crucial 12-second swing in the third period involving goals by Jonathan Marchessault and Alex Tuch, which helped the Knights overcome a one-goal deficit and take this one by a final score of 4-3.
In a game defined and, to an extend, decided by goaltender interference, the Knights were able to fight back after giving up three unanswered goals to win their fourth straight game on home ice.
The game started with a tremendous power-play goal by Reilly Smith just 1:28 into the first period.
Pacioretty creates a big rebound and Smith was there to ram it home. pic.twitter.com/nOUy2pb2AF— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 7, 2018
It was Smith’s fifth of the season and first in eight games, so he was long overdue; he went on to record a three-point performance. Deryk Engelland netted his first goal of the season to give Vegas a 2-0 lead later in the first, which was a fitting turn of events after Engelland appeared to score his first of the season when these teams met in Chicago Nov. 27, only to have the goal be credited to Ryan Reaves.
From there, Vegas ran into a bit of penalty trouble, ultimately taking four minor penalties on the night. Luckily, the penalty kill stepped up (yet again), killing each of the penalties and collecting its 21st straight kill (24th at home).
Though the Blackhawks failed to score on the power play, they did score twice in the second period, which was a difficult one for the Knights, who gave up 17 shots against at even strength and seven high-danger chances across all strengths.
But the Knights continued to generate scoring chances; in fact, Vegas had nine shots as well as four high-danger chances in the second period, the same number of high-danger chances as the first. The difference, however, was that Corey Crawford came alive in the second, standing on his head and keeping his team in the game.
Crawford with a huge glove save on Cody Eakin. pic.twitter.com/2EIrozU4Gi— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 7, 2018
Just as Vegas killed off Nosek's minor for tripping, Reilly Smith went in all alone on Crawford, who made another big save to keep it a one-score game. pic.twitter.com/TmfuMHL4Ua— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 7, 2018
Crawford was the catalyst behind the Blackhawks’ second-period comeback.
Jonathan Toews got the Hawks on the board exactly four minutes into the middle frame, scoring short-side by banking the puck off Marc-Andre Fleury’s back. Dylan Strome followed suit later in the period, using William Carrier as a screen to beat Fleury.
It appeared as though the Knights had taken a 3-2 lead, but the second period ended with a bit of controversy and one of the more bizarre sequences you will ever see in an NHL game.
As Andreas Martinsen and Tomas Nosek slid into the crease, knocking over Crawford and also dislodging the net, Oscar Lindberg seemingly put the puck in the net. The call on the ice was no goal, though the play was reviewed.
They're taking a look at this. The puck appeared to go in the net before the net was dislodged. pic.twitter.com/xsSPBXzVJH— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 7, 2018
However, the referee’s announcement was interrupted by the goal horn and subsequent eruption from the crowd. When the referee finished his announcement, he explained that while Lindberg’s shot had crossed the goal line prior to the net coming off its moorings, the call on the ice was no goal because of goaltender interference. Gerard Gallant then challenged the play for goaltender interference, but the call on the ice was upheld, leaving the game tied at 2-2 after two.
A wild third period ensued in which three goals were scored in the span of just 53 seconds.
The Hawks scored their third unanswered goal less than eight minutes into the third as Artem Anisimov capitalized on a careless turnover by Nick Holden, giving Chicago its first lead of the night.
GOAL. Nick Holden blindly tosses the puck into the neutral zone and right to Artem Anisimov, who gives Chicago the lead. That's three unanswered goals for the Blackhawks. pic.twitter.com/854yRRXB6p— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 7, 2018
But then the tides turned, as they often do when Vegas is playing at its best.
Just 41 seconds after Anisimov lit the lamp, Marchessault stormed right back and tied the game, breaking his own goalless drought (eight games, just like Smith) with his 11th goal of the season.
GOAL. Marchessault lasers one past Crawford to tie the game. pic.twitter.com/wPtlDqSTfo— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 7, 2018
In typical Golden Knights fashion, Tuch scored the go-ahead marker just 12 seconds later on a terrific give-and-go with Max Pacioretty in the high-danger area.
GOAL. And just like that, Vegas has the lead. Alex Tuch scores this time. pic.twitter.com/2Uvisjqht9— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 7, 2018
The play was later challenged by Chicago for goaltender interference (noticing a theme?), but the call on the ice stood; Tuch’s ninth of the year turned out to be the game-winner.
Chicago challenges for goalie interference, but the call on the ice stands. It looks like Pacioretty was pushed into Crawford. pic.twitter.com/M8WYwqARSX— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 7, 2018
The third period represented what the Golden Knights have done well in the second part of this season, as Vegas just took it to the Blackhawks with a 21-12 Corsi edge and a 10-6 advantage in shots. The Knights dominated possession, not allowing Chicago back into the game once they had re-claimed the lead.
The Blackhawks had just eight shots and two high-danger chances in the third period, and the Knights’ defense allowed just five Corsi events between Tuch’s goal and when Crawford was pulled, an impressive feat that also included this game-saver from Flower:
The win brings Vegas’ overall record to 16-13-1 and improves the franchise’s all-time record against the Blackhawks to 5-0-0.
Tonight was a great follow-up effort to the Knights’ impressive performance against Washington earlier this week. The Knights showed an ability in both games to overcome deficits and are finally starting to look more and more like the team from last season.
Not every win is going to be perfect, but good teams find ways to win hockey games, and the Knights are starting to make a habit of that. With four straight wins on home ice and seven wins in the last eight games, it just might be safe to say that Vegas is rolling.