A pair of goals in the first two minutes of the second period sparked Vegas’ victory, giving the Knights a commanding three-goal lead they would not relinquish.
The game got off to a concerning start when Vegas was assessed a double minor for high sticking for the second game in a row. However, this time it worked in Vegas’ favor. In a big way.
The Knights gained momentum by killing off the penalty, especially since Vegas went to the power play just six seconds following the successful kill.
From there, it was all Vegas.
The Knights capitalized on the ensuing power play as Mark Stone scored his first goal of the night. Alex Tuch delivered a between-the-legs, behind-the-back pass from the blue line to the slot, which Stone tipped; it looked like it might be a broken play, but Stone recovered the puck before roofing it over the shoulder of Coyotes netminder Antti Raanta to give the Knights a 1-0 lead.
It was a refreshing turnaround for the Knights, who gave up two power-play goals and scored none Friday night in Anaheim.
The Coyotes later tied the game at 1-1 on a beautiful passing play, which resulted in Michael Grabner netting his eighth goal of the season.
But Stone responded less than two minutes later with his second of the game. This time, it was Max Pacioretty with the puck magic, as he fooled everyone on a backdoor pass to Stone, who tucked it behind the unsuspecting Raanta.
It was the first of three unanswered goals by the Knights.
Chandler Stephenson scored just 12 seconds into the second period, giving him a career-high seven goals on the season.
The Knights had an abbreviated power play, and Stephenson used his speed to get behind the Arizona defense before going five-hole on Raanta.
Paul Stastny followed suit 1:42 later, putting the Knights up 4-1. Shea Theodore picked up his third assist of the game on the play.
Raanta was pulled following Stastny’s goal, his 10th of the season, but the 4-1 score would hold through the final 38 minutes of action.
Marc-Andre Fleury made some excellent saves as he helped the Knights rebound from back-to-back losses, including an ugly 7-3 loss to Colorado before the holiday break. But Fleury was sharp against Arizona, stopping 27 of 28 shots for a save percentage of .964. He is now tied for sixth on the all-time wins list with 454.
Vegas now sits atop the Pacific Division standings with 48 points, though Arizona still has two games in hand. That being said, the Knights came to play in arguably the biggest game of the season.
Vegas outshot Arizona 36-28 and went a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill, which has been a weakness for the team in recent games. The Knights managed a 52.1 percent Corsi share, 56.6 percent shot share, 61.2 percent scoring chance share and 58.8 percent high-danger Corsi share.
The second line led the way, finishing the night with Corsi For percentages above 62.5 and combining for five points on the scoresheet.
There was a late scare as Stone stayed down on the ice after taking a hit from Jakob Chychrun; he got up on his own but headed straight to the locker room. Fortunately, he returned to the bench shortly thereafter, but that’s something to monitor moving forward.
One would have to assume if it were anything serious he would have stayed in the locker room, especially given how well he has been playing. In fact, Stone has four goals and 15 points in his last 10 games, while linemate Pacioretty has six goals and 14 points in that time. Theodore has been red-hot as well; he tied a season-high with three assists in tonight’s game, and he has two goals and 11 points in his last eight games.
The Knights are now 8-4-2 in December, as Vegas’ December dominance continues for the third straight year. The Knights franchise has posted a combined record of 28-8-6 in the month of December.
The Knights are hoping to squeeze out two more December points as Vegas finishes up 2019 at home with an afternoon tilt against Anaheim on Tuesday.