Winning six games in a row is pretty cool. You know what’s even cooler, though? Winning seven in a row.
Much to the chagrin of the visiting New York Rangers, the Vegas Golden Knights did indeed pick up their seventh straight victory Tuesday night. And until late in the game, the Rangers didn’t put up much of a fight. The Knights outshot New York 24-15 in the first two periods. Though the score doesn’t look too bad on paper, the Knights’ 4-2 victory was a convincing one on home ice.
In what shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone, forward Brandon Pirri made a pretty big impact on the scoresheet. Pirri, who was recalled from the AHL just days after he finished up a nine-point run in seven games with the Knights, scored his seventh goal of the season to give Vegas its first power-play goal since Dec. 23. Max Pacioretty’s shot rang off the post, but Pirri came flying in like a wrecking ball to get the puck past the goal line.
Pirri has now picked up 10 points on the season — three of which have come on the power play. It’s impossible to know what’s going to happen when Reilly Smith and William Carrier return to the lineup, but it certainly seems like Pirri’s earned his spot in Vegas full-time. Even if the Knights have to sacrifice someone to the waiver wire.
Of course, Pirri wasn’t the only player to deliver a standout performance. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had a pretty big game as well, stopping 27 of 29 shots to record his league-leading 25th win of the season. Fleury made several big-time stops on the night, but none as big as his robbery of Cody McLeod (surprising, right?) late in the middle period.
At the beginning of the season, many were worried that this season’s Vegas team was merely a shell of the group that went to the Stanley Cup Final. But based on what we’ve been seeing recently, this team, believe it or not, is very much on track to make another deep playoff run.
So what’s the difference between the Knights team we’re seeing now and the Knights team we saw back in October and November? Head coach Gerard Gallant has some answers.
“I’m not one to make excuses, but we had a lot of injuries early on in the season. We had a real tough schedule early on in the season, we had to do a lot of traveling and I think that caught up to us a little bit,” said Gallant. “We’ve played real good hockey lately. When you get players like Nate Schmidt back and Paul Stastny back, they were out for long term, Pacioretty missed a number of games, so there are a lot of guys that have been in and out of our lineup and I think we get some chemistry.”
The Golden Knights are now 27-15-4 on the season and have an 18-3-3 record since suffering that beatdown in Alberta against the Calgary Flames back in November. With 58 points on the season, Vegas is now tied with that same Calgary team for the top spot in the Pacific Division (though Calgary does have a pair of games in hand).
Not far behind the Knights and Flames are the San Jose Sharks, who Vegas has a meeting with Thursday night in T-Mobile Arena. You might want to tune into that one.