The Vegas Golden Knights have been on a roll as of late. Prior to Friday night, they’d won each of their last four contests (three of which came against Pacific Division rivals), extending their record to 15-3-3 since the miserable Nov. 19 meltdown against the Calgary Flames.
Friday night, Vegas chalked up yet another victory against a division rival. This time it was the Anaheim Ducks on the wrong side of things as the Knights extending their winning streak to three games against Anaheim on the season.
Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt opened the scoring early when he fired a point slapper through traffic that beat John Gibson cleanly. The Ducks responded in the second period by scoring a pair of goals in just 18 seconds, but Vegas put together a nice response of its own when Tomas Nosek and Max Pacioretty scored back-to-back to reclaim the lead. From there, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury held the fort and turned aside ever Anaheim shot for the rest of the contest, cementing Vegas’ fifth straight victory since the holiday break.
Pacioretty scores in return
While nobody wanted to see forward Brandon Pirri reassigned to the AHL, someone had to sent to Chicago in order to make room for Max Pacioretty on the roster. And to the delight of many Golden Knights fans, it didn’t take Pacioretty long to make an impact.
The USA line was reunited in Pacioretty’s return Friday night, and it was that line that produced the eventual game-winning tally around the game’s midway point. Following a nice pass from Alex Tuch in the neutral zone, Paul Stastny hit Pacioretty with a perfect feed through the low slot, giving Pacioretty a wide-open net to pot his 11th goal of the season.
This is likely to go down as one of the easier goals of Pacioretty’s career, and he wasn’t shy about giving credit to Stastny after the game.
“He’s the best at that. He made an easy layup for me,” Pacioretty said of Stastny. “I thought we played a very strong game tonight as a line and as a team, and we want to build off that.”
Pacioretty has now picked up 11 goals and 20 points through 31 appearances this season. His slow start to the season may not have been optimal, but he’s certainly made up for it in his last 17 games (nine goals and 18 points in that span).
Nosek has a big night
Fans of Tomas Nosek probably haven’t been in the greatest of moods over the last 24 or so hours. When news of Brandon Pirri being sent to Chicago spread, many were quick to point to Nosek as a player who could have been sacrificed through the waiver wire to keep Pirri in a Knights uniform for the remainder of the season. That obviously didn’t end up happening, but Nosek still put together a pretty excellent response to those demands.
The 26-year-old forward not only picked up an assist on Nate Schmidt’s first-period tally, but he also netted the game-tying goal just after the game’s midway point.
“The most important thing is the win for us,” said Nosek. “It’s five in a row, so we have to keep going like that and play our game. Me personally, I just try to go hard to the net and create some chaos there and put in some rebounds, and that’s what happened tonight.”
With five goals and six assists on the season, Nosek now sits just four points shy of his career-high from last year (15 points in 67 games).
The second period was insane
Pacioretty’s tally wound up being the final goal scored in the middle period (and the game in general), but that’s not to say the Knights didn’t have any good scoring chances afterward. On the contrary, the second period was chock full of quality scoring chances for both teams from start to finish.
The Ducks were the first to get on the board in the second period, and they did so twice in a row to take a 2-1 lead. Not long after, however, the Knights scored twice in just 31 seconds to reclaim the lead, courtesy of Nosek and Pacioretty.
Frankly, though, it’s amazing that more goals weren’t scored in the second frame.
Both teams combined for 27 shots, 13 high-danger scoring chances and four goals in the second period. The Knights were a little slow out of the gate, but that second period ended up being a treat for anyone fond of chaotic hockey.
Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb put together a pretty solid performance Friday night. The 27-year-old blueliner picked up his ninth assist of the season and made multiple big-time plays in the defensive zone — one of which likely saved the game for Vegas.
With time dying down in the period, Ducks forward Ondrej Kase backhanded a puck that, in most cases, probably would have ended up in the back of the net. In this case, though, McNabb got his stick in position to deflect the puck into the air
This wasn’t the only time McNabb and Kase convened, either. Not long before Kase’s backhand attempt, McNabb shut down the dynamic forward as he attempted to create separation in the Vegas zone. McNabb knocked the puck away as Kase skated down the right wing and ended the 23-year-old’s bid for good by checking him to the ice.
McNabb isn’t known for generating much offense — he finished the night with a team-low 42.86 Corsi For percentage at 5-on-5 — but there’s no denying his capabilities as a stay-at-home defender. His play in the Vegas made a big difference Friday night, and it particularly showed late in the game.
Gibson keeps Anaheim competitive
Ducks goaltender John Gibson wasn’t named one of the game’s three stars, which is a bit surprising. Without the 25-year-old backstop, Vegas likely would have won this game by a much larger margin.
Gibson is one of the top candidates to win the Vezina this season, which really isn’t all that surprising. The Pittsburgh native has made more stops than any other goalie in the NHL (1,030 in 35 games) and sports an excellent .925 save percentage. Gibson faced 40-plus shots for the eighth time this season when his team took on the Knights, and he did everything within his capabilities to keep the game competitive, despite Anaheim allowing a plethora of high-quality chances.