The ice was tilted heavily to one side after the first period as Nate Schmidt got his fourth goal of the season in career game No. 300 during a delayed penalty. A crossbar shot that deflected off of Ducks forward Brandon Gibbons was thought to be an answering goal, but play continued and it was later confirmed that the puck had not crossed the goal line. Lucky break for Vegas.
Despite trailing Anaheim in hits 14-10, the Golden Knights maintained offensive pressure, beating the Ducks in shots on goal 17-6 after 20 minutes.
However, Daniel Sprong and Carter Rowney would deliver a heck of a one-two punch combo. Sprong put the opposition on the board at 1:57 to kickstart the middle frame after Nick Holden was sent to the penalty box for interference, and Rowney gave the Ducks the lead just seconds later off a tip-in.
Roughly halfway through the period the seesaw battle continued when Tomas Nosek put away a rebound shot. Not long after, Max Pacioretty made it 3-2 in his first game back from injury.
From there, All-Star netminder Marc-Andre Fleury remained perfect for the rest of the contest despite a late push from Anaheim in the final frame.
The victory extends Vegas’ winning streak to five games for the second time this season while Anaheim has now dropped seven consecutive games and just barely remains in the playoff picture.
Tonight gave Pacioretty his 11th goal and 20th point of the season. With Pacioretty returning from IR, that meant someone had to be sent to the AHL to make room for him on the roster, and that person ended up being Brandon Pirri, arguably Vegas’ hottest player over the last couple weeks. Pirri was originally called up on December 19 and put up nine points (six goals and three assists) in just seven games.
Pirri definitely seems to have earned his place on the team, but it just came down to the experience that Pacioretty has under his belt. With management outwardly saying that Pirri will be back, don’t be surprised to see him again in the not-too-distant future should the injury bug strike, especially in the postseason when play becomes even more physical.