It doesn’t get much better than that, especially since it was the first official rematch of the most important game of last year’s playoffs (a little hyperbole never hurt anyone). The Knights beat the Sharks earlier in the week in a preseason matchup, but the two points made tonight’s win a lot sweeter.
It didn’t hurt that the Golden Knights put forth a complete team effort in order to secure the victory.
It came at a price, though.
Unfortunately, the game got off to a rough start when Nate Schmidt was helped to the locker room in the first period after a knee-on-knee collision with Logan Couture.
Couture and Schmidt both had their legs out and they collided at a high speed. Not pretty. pic.twitter.com/uTRwod27XD— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) October 3, 2019
Though the Knights didn’t have an update on Schmidt’s status following the game, he reportedly left the arena for an MRI (per SinBin). It remains to be seen if he will be out for an extended period of time, but any time missed by one of Vegas’ two most important defensemen is too much, especially this early on in the season.
Fortunately, however, Vegas recovered and played a hell of a game the rest of the way, limiting chances defensively while driving play toward the net. At even strength, the Golden Knights outshot San Jose 26-16, and scoring chances were 30-10 in their favor.
Mark Stone, Reilly Smith and rookie Cody Glass, making his NHL debut, scored for Vegas, with Smith picking up two goals on the night.
Stone scored the first goal of the season on a power play 3:46 into the game, and Smith scored his first of the night less than two minutes later to give Vegas an early 2-0 lead.
The lone San Jose goal came from winger Marcus Sorensen later in the first. Martin Jones ultimately gave up four goals, but he made a number of key saves to keep this game within reach.
However, he wasn’t able to stop Glass from potting his first career goal just 2:12 into the middle frame.
Glass, who became the first player ever drafted by the Golden Knights to score a goal in the NHL, looked excellent for most of the night, especially in the second period. He skated on the second line with Stone and Max Pacioretty, who set him up beautifully.
GOAL. Cody Glass scores the first goal of his NHL career to make it 3-1 in favor of Vegas. pic.twitter.com/tpcCqqJIW9— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) October 3, 2019
Smith later added a shorthanded goal four minutes into the third, giving Vegas the healthy 4-1 lead it would hold on to for the rest of the night.
The Golden Knights were simply dominant throughout the entire game, and it was a collective effort from everyone on the team.
But the first and second lines were special.
The play of Smith, William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault was strong at even strength, but Smith and Karlsson elevated their game while shorthanded, getting several scoring chances as well as a goal. Considering how the penalty kill played in the last game that mattered between these two teams, the Golden Knights’ success in that area of the game was a large part of this win.
Stone and Pacioretty were another noticeable duo, and in the second period, after shaking off the initial nerves, Glass joined in on the fun.
The trio was impressive, but arguably it was the play of Pacioretty and Stone that took Glass’ play to the top-six form he attained at times throughout the game. This could turn out to be a dangerous line, and it could force Gerard Gallant to do some rearranging once Cody Eakin returns. In fact, if this line continues to play like it did tonight, it would not be a surprise to see Eakin drop to the fourth line so Glass could stay put, leaving Paul Stastny on the third line with Alex Tuch.
The Golden Knights controlled possession at even strength, but no one was as dominant as the first line of Karlsson, Marchessault and Smith, who combined for a 90 percent shot share and 97.19 percent expected goal share. They just didn’t allow chances and forced the puck into the Sharks’ zone time and time again.
With Schmidt out, the two defensemen who saw the most minutes were Shea Theodore (of course) and... Nick Holden? They both saw 23:37 across all strengths, but Holden got the most minutes at even strength. To be fair to Holden, however, he played fairly well. He had a 57.14 percent Corsi and 65 percent shot share at even strength, and he did so while playing with Deryk Engelland. The pairing wasn’t actually half bad.
But Theodore stole the show, managing a 65.71 percent Corsi, 55.56 percent shot share and 66.14 percent expected goal share at even strength with just a 33.33 percent offensive zone start percentage.
The Golden Knights need big things out of Theodore this season, and while he looked rusty at times (a high stick took away a second goal from Sorensen when Theodore should have done a better job at covering him), he delivered for the most part.
The Sharks didn’t play their best game, but keep in mind that they were without Evander Kane, who’s currently serving a three-game suspension; plus, Erik Karlsson was a late scratch due to a personal matter.
Marc-Andre Fleury wasn’t tested much but was solid, making 21 saves on 22 shots in the winning effort.
The Golden Knights are now 1-0-0; they will face the Sharks once again on Friday, this time in San Jose.