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Preseason, Game 1, Year 2: Golden Knights draw energy from packed preseason crowd, defeat Coyotes

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Tomas Nosek continues to make a case for more ice time. Max Pacioretty scored his first Golden Knights goal. Dylan Ferguson is getting better, and his dad didn’t even get to see him play live.

Arizona Coyotes v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Vegas Golden Knights played their first preseason contest of the 2018-19 season. It was a doozy. The reigning Western Conference champions defeated whatever was left of the Arizona Coyotes 7-2 at T-Mobile Arena on Sunday.

It was certainly a treat for the 17,567 that showed up to watch that thrashing.

Wait. What?

Yeah, T-Mobile Arena was sold out on Sunday. For a preseason game. Exhibition, if you will. On the Lord’s day, our day of rest, whatever the hell you call it, the Golden Knights played a game as if it were a Stanley Cup Final game all over again.

Let’s start with this. The helmet is back. It appears to become a regular thing, now. We are cool with this.

Of course the “KNIGHT!” was going to be absurdly loud. It reached beyond levels I didn’t think could be comprehended. Again, it is preseason.

The puck hasn’t dropped yet. The crowd is loud. It legit feels like Vegas is still in the playoffs. Then, 16 seconds in, Jonathan Marchessault scores a goal to make it 1-0 Golden Knights, and we’re off.

“Seriously, it’s incredible, to have that many people in the building tonight for an exhibition game, your first exhibition game,” said Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant. “Some of our new players after the first period that this was unbelievable, it feels like a playoff game and it’s our first exhibition game. It’s incredible and the support is unbelievable and it makes you want to play in this building.”

Let it be known that this was a game that didn’t really need star power, but alas, two-thirds of the top line needed it apparently.

Marchessault scored two goals, and William Karlsson added one more. Playing the role of Reilly Smith tonight was Tomas Nosek. The usual fourth-line winger had three assists and continues to make a case for some possible third line minutes at season’s start.

2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game One Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Talk of who will be on Vegas’ bottom six intensified the night the Golden Knights acquired Max Pacioretty from the Montreal Canadiens. With him and Paul Stastny expected to be the center-wing combo on the second line, along with Alex Tuch, someone has to drop. Or, someone comes up to the third line.

Waiting in the wings is Nosek, who hopes his effort since Game 4 of the Western Conference Final can provide a bump up in lines next season. He scored five points in Vegas’ final seven playoff games last season.

“All [last] season long, I felt more confident every other game,” Nosek said. “The finals helped me a lot. It was a great experience for us. It’s over, it’s a new season.”

Gallant added: “We asked him to try and get a little bit quicker with his foot speed this summer and it looks like that he has done it. He looks really good on the ice and comfortable.”

Nosek’s first assist on Marchessault’s first goal was not by design. He said he tried to wrap it around Arizona goalie Darcy Kuemper, but didn’t get enough on it for a quality shot. Marchessault was at the right place at the right time.

“Nosey’s a great player,” Marchessault said. “I think he’s the kind of player you know what to get every time from him. He goes hard to the dirty areas, he skates well, he protects the puck. He’s a big boy. He does the right plays. Happy he got rewarded tonight.”

More notes from Sunday’s game

Max Pacioretty played his first game as a Golden Knights forward, which is wonderful. He had a goal and an assist in the first 8:39 of the game. The crowd loves them some Patches.

Pacioretty was to the left of the second line, centered by Cody Glass. He already looks comfortable on Vegas, and that’s playing with two prospects. It’s only one preseason game, but hooray for finding positives and all that.

“Unbelievable,” Pacioretty said. “That was a lot of fun and I said that in the past couple of days. I said that I felt comfortable and tonight I felt very comfortable. Everyone did, we played such a fast game. It’s just so much fun, you don’t have to think out there at all.

“You can feel this atmosphere, as soon as we came and started camp. Then we come out for the game and the crowd was just ridiculous, it was like the playoffs, it was unbelievable. I still have the goosebumps.”

Top prospects played well

Nic Hague looked very good. The prospect defenseman had an assist on the Pacioretty goal, and scored a beautiful toe-drag goal with 38 seconds left in the second period. The OHL defenseman of the year has gotten rave reviews for his development since June. Not sure if that means he’s pulled himself into the conversation of a roster spot on opening night, but if he keeps this play up, it might be.

“Any time you go in the locker room around the guys, they’ve all been awesome to me,” Hague said. “Little tips here and there, or I come to the bench and they say, ‘nice play.’ They’ve been awesome here.”

Glass had two assists and looked good alongside Pacioretty. He was quiet for most of the night, which is not necessarily good on a top six. It’ll be interesting to watch how Glass asserts himself on the offensive end.

Arizona Coyotes v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Erik Brannstrom was quiet for 40 minutes, but caused some chaos in the final five. He drew two penalties in a 10-second sequence — a roughing call on Michael Bunting and tripping on Conor Garland. Not long after, Brannstrom scored his first goal in a Vegas sweater. He also had an assist. It’s moments like those that, even if he’s a year or two away from playing on the big club, the future of the blue line lies with Brannstrom.

Dylan Ferguson is now the winningest goalie in Golden Knights preseason history after his 25-save performance. The Kamloops goalie, who has a save on Connor McDavid in his career, got the win in Vegas’ first ever preseason game last year against Vancouver. He also stopped a penalty shot, pushing him into God status the likes of which Vegas has never seen.

So, Dylan, what was going through your mind when that penalty shot was coming?”

“Do what [goalie coach] Dave [Prior] says,” he said.

Good answer. He’s come such a long way since development camp last year, it’s been awesome to see.

Also, next time, can we get Dylan’s dad a damn ticket to the game? If the Andersons can get tickets to the game, so can he.

All in all, a solid performance by the Golden Knights in a game where they really didn’t need to play the top stars. A night off is probably coming for them when Vegas plays at the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.