There’s no place like home.
That hasn’t always been the case this season, but in the 100th home game in Vegas Golden Knights franchise history, the mantra rang true as the Knights secured a 6-3 victory over the visiting Canucks Sunday night at T-Mobile Arena.
The two points bump Vegas into second place in the Pacific Division with 41 points.
Max Pacioretty led the way with a four-point outing, including two key third-period tallies to extend his goal streak to four games.
However, the win was really marked by a particularly dominant second-period performance in which the Knights outshot Vancouver 19-4, led the 5-on-5 Corsi battle 29-12 and outscored the Canucks 2-0 on the scoreboard. That brought Vegas’ lead to 4-1 with goals from Jonathan Marchessault as well as Mark Stone, who broke his eight-game goal drought with what ended up being the game-winning goal.
Marchessault, who scored the 100th goal of his career, and Stone joined a few unlikely names on the scoresheet as Vegas got goals from Nick Holden and Valentin Zykov in the opening frame. It was Holden’s first goal since Oct. 22 and Zykov’s first of the season.
But Vancouver’s young phenoms didn’t go quietly, as both Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser found twine in this one, with Boeser making it a 4-2 game just over five minutes into the third period.
At that point, the Canucks had a little momentum on their side, and Pettersson came uncomfortably close to bringing Vancouver within one. But Marc-Andre Fleury came up with a huge save to preserve Vegas’ two-goal lead.
Very shortly thereafter, Pacioretty restored the three-goal lead with his 14th of the season as his forehand-backhand deke, reminiscent of the game-winning move he used the other night against Dallas, ended Jacob Markstrom’s night.
It was a key goal in the contest, even if it wasn’t technically the game-winner.
Vancouver scored again in the final three minutes of the game, but a late power play set up Pacioretty for his second goal and fourth point of the night, sealing the 6-3 win for Vegas.
All in all, it was one of Vegas’ best team efforts of the season.
It also was an important win against a division opponent at a critical moment in the season.
It wasn’t Fleury’s best performance statistically, as he finished the game with an .897 save percentage after stopping 26 of 29 shots.
That being said, aside from being a little too aggressive on Pettersson’s first-period goal, Fleury was as clutch as ever for the Knights and made several key stops, including this quintessential poke-check save.
It’s encouraging to see Vegas rolling four lines even with Cody Eakin and Cody Glass out of the lineup.
Chandler Stephenson has really stepped up since coming over in a trade from the Capitals; he recorded his fourth point as a Knight tonight when he assisted on Pacioretty’s second of the game, and he finished the night with a Corsi For percentage of 65.22 at 5-on-5.
Of course, anyone’s numbers will improve when skating with Pacioretty and Stone, but Stephenson certainly didn’t look out of place, nor did he slow down his linemates. The fact that he’s been able to step into a top-six role should not be underestimated.
But tonight was not about one player or one line; it was a team effort and a team win.
The Knights, as a team, have now gone 7-2-1 over their last 10 games and have leapfrogged both Edmonton and Calgary in the Pacific Division standings. Vegas sits one point behind the division-leading Coyotes, though all three clubs have a game in hand.
But there’s no doubt the Knights have made progress, and not just in the standings. The Knights have recently demonstrated a stronger ability to bounce back, and the team’s early-season struggles with consistency have improved greatly.
One week ago today, the Knights suffered a brutal 5-0 loss on home ice against the Rangers, which snapped Vegas’ five-game point streak. The Knights have responded with 11 goals in the two home games since, including six from five different players tonight.
The Knights now seem geared up for a strong push in the second half of the season, though there’s plenty of work to be done in 2019.
Vegas has five more games against Pacific Division opponents this month, including a rematch against the Canucks in Vancouver on Thursday.
But first, Vegas will look to win its third straight game as the Knights host the Wild on Tuesday night.