Had I told you before the season that the Vegas Golden Knights would be one of the best teams in the NHL and the Chicago Blackhawks would be one of the worst, you probably would’ve made fun of me and called me lots of mean names.
Inexplicably, though, that’s exactly where we are at this point in the season.
The Blackhawks, who have won the Stanley Cup three times in the last eight years, are in the cellar of the Central Division. Coming off an embarrassing 6-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes Monday night, the Blackhawks traveled to the T-Mobile Arena to try and redeem themselves after the debilitating defeat.
To Chicago’s credit, they got off to a good start. Just over two minutes into the game, the Blackhawks took advantage of an early penalty to Deryk Engelland as Tommy Wingels deflected an Erik Gustafsson point shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to take the 1-0 lead.
It wouldn’t be long before Vegas responded, though. Just a few minutes after Wingels’ tally, Ryan Carpenter beat Chicago goaltender Jeff Glass from behind the net to tie the game up at one apiece.
Carpenter’s goal helped the Golden Knights reclaim the early momentum, but Vegas would end up suffering what appeared to be a massive blow late in the opening period.
While on the man advantage, James Neal took a vicious Brad Hunt blast to the knee. Neal immediately dropped to the ice in agony and had to be assisted to the locker room.
Unbelievably, Neal returned to the bench in the second period and stayed in the game. Vegas can take a big sigh of relief.
In that second period, Chicago took the lead yet again thanks to a quick snapshot by rookie sensation Alex DeBrincat. With chaos in front of the net, Patrick Sharp recollected the loose puck and fed the 20-year-old in the slot, who made no mistake beating Fleury to give Chicago the one-goal lead once again.
DeBrincat’s tally would be the only score of the period, but that’s not to say Vegas didn’t come close to scoring their second goal of the night in the middle third, either.
Alex Tuch nearly potted his 11th goal of the season, but a clutch defensive play by Duncan Keith kept the puck from crossing the goal line.
Tuch would get another chance late in the period on a wraparound attempt, but Glass was there to flash the pad and knock the puck away.
That wasn’t all that happened to Tuch in the second period. He also got destroyed by Wingels while trying to enter the offensive zone on a Vegas power play. Looking at the hit in slow motion, Tuch’s skate blade came scarily close to Artem Anisimov’s face. Had Anisimov not been paying attention, this could have been disastrous.
Vegas had a tough time finding twine through 40 minutes, but that changed entirely in the game’s final 20 minutes.
Just over a minute into the final third, Hunt (!) scored his second goal of the season to tie the game up 2-2 on the man advantage. It took a while, but Vegas finally managed to take advantage of a power play.
After Hunt’s tally, Sharp and David Perron were both given two-minute minors for extracurricular activity after a stoppage of play. Not long after, Reilly Smith took advantage of the extra ice and beat Glass glove side to give Vegas the 3-2 lead.
The party wouldn’t end there. Soon after Smith’s tally, Perron beat Glass to double the Golden Knights’ lead. That’s three goals on three shots for Vegas in just 3:40.
Chicago made a last-ditch effort to tie the game back up by pulling Glass late in the period, but Vegas wasn’t about to let them make it interesting again. Tomas Nosek, in his first game since Jan. 16, scored the empty net goal to secure Vegas’ 5-2 victory over the Blackhawks. With this win, the Golden Knights have officially swept Chicago (3-0) in the season series.
What a win for Vegas. The Golden Knights haven’t been playing their best hockey as of late. And while Chicago may only be a shell of its former self, a win over the Blackhawks is certainly a great way to get back on track as Vegas continues its homestand.
The Golden Knights return to the T-Mobile Arena Thursday night to take on the Edmonton Oilers for the third time this season. Vegas is 0-1-1 against Edmonton this season, so a win over the Oilers would be quite a satisfying one.
* It should be noted, though, that the Golden Knights have yet to beat a team with a blue/orange color scheme!