A few shake-ups to the Golden Knights’ lineup played a key role in Vegas’ 5-1 victory over the Predators Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
After five straight losses on home ice, something had to give. In this case, that something was Predators goalie Juuse Saros, five separate times.
Saros has had Vegas’ number this year but was not enough to stop the Knights’ offensive onslaught, which featured 50 shots and five goals.
But the Knights controlled more than just the scoreboard.
Nashville only managed to get 30 shots on goal, and the Predators recorded 17 hits compared to Vegas’ 33. With Malcolm Subban getting his first start since Jan. 6 and a few changes to the line combinations, the Knights were prepared to take the reins, and they did so in dominant fashion.
It was also a consistent effort, as Vegas scored at least one goal in all three periods, including three in the third; this was particularly fitting since the Knights had given up three third-period goals in back-to-back games before tonight.
But despite dominating possession in the first period, things didn’t get off to a great start.
The first unofficial goal of the game was actually scored by Colton Sissons at 15:47 of the first. However, Gerard Gallant immediately challenged the play for offside, which reversed the goal.
NO GOAL. Sissons was clearly offside on the zone entry. pic.twitter.com/SDhwRCoaep— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 17, 2019
With the score reset to 0-0, Max Pacioretty finally broke through in the final three minutes of the opening frame. It was a strange goal, but his persistence paid off as the puck slid underneath Saros and across the goal line.
#GoofyGoal? pic.twitter.com/zWEsf5pQ7X— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 17, 2019
Pacioretty had an outstanding game as part of a new-look third line with Cody Eakin and Oscar Lindberg. Perhaps Pacioretty took his demotion to heart, but one way or another the line clicked immediately and accounted for three of Vegas’ five goals.
Brandon Pirri, who was moved up to the second line, netted his 10th of the season with a power-play strike in the second period. It was Pirri’s second goal in three games after going six games without a point, and it gave Vegas a 2-0 lead through 40 minutes.
Part of Pirri’s promotion may have been to help jumpstart the second line’s production. Alex Tuch had gone seven games without a point, which more than tripled his season-long pointless streak of two games. However, Tuch made his presence felt early in the third period on a dandy of a goal by Shea Theodore less than two minutes into the frame.
After a failed two-on-one opportunity for Vegas, it appeared as though the Predators were about to take the puck up ice for a possible odd-man rush of their own. However, Tuch forced the turnover along the boards, keeping the play alive and moving the puck to Paul Stastny, who found a wide-open Theodore.
But Kudos to Theodore for the pretty finish.
Oh baby pic.twitter.com/9jsmNnApYi— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 17, 2019
While Saros was busy making save after save, Subban was more than holding his own. However, his shutout bid was squashed by Kevin Fiala, who got Nashville on the board a little more than two minutes later.
Vegas got back to business later in the period, though.
Lindberg scored for the second game in a row as he helped Vegas re-gain the three-goal lead at 13:48 of the third, and Pacioretty gave the Knights a commanding 5-1 lead when he added his second of the game less than two minutes later.
GOAL. And now Ma Pacioretty scores his second of the night. Knights lead 5-1. pic.twitter.com/LqVqBDEf91— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 17, 2019
It was Pacioretty’s 18th goal of the season, surpassing his total of 17 last year with the Montreal Canadiens.
As dominant as Vegas was, there were a number of missed opportunities. For example, in the second period, Jonathan Marchessault had a chance to squeak one past Saros, but in an odd maneuver decided not to take it.
Very bizarre play from Jonathan Marchessault here. Excellent chance in front of Sarros, but dangled himself into submission. pic.twitter.com/ngW1VjWBrZ— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 17, 2019
Plus, though Vegas potted five goals on the night, Saros came up huge on a lot of promising scoring chances, including when he shut down consecutive shots by Tuch and a follow-up attempt by Lindberg.
Saros makes three saves (two on Tuch, one on Lindberg) in about two seconds. pic.twitter.com/DMCd3l1Z8a— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 17, 2019
It was still a good sign to see the Knights generating so many scoring chances; if not for Saros, this game could have gotten out of hand quickly, which was a much-needed response from the Knights after three straight losses.
Additionally, it was refreshing to see the Knights clean up their game after taking way too many penalties the other night against the Maple Leafs. Vegas took just three penalties tonight: one against Marchessault for an illegal check to the head and two against McNabb for tripping and delay of game.
Also, it was a relief to see Marc-Andre Fleury get a much-needed night off after giving up a season-high six goals the other night against Toronto. Subban stopped 29 of 30 shots and played very well; it was clear he was rested and alert, and he was superb throughout the contest.
All in all, the Knights looked like a different team tonight.
Perhaps Gallant had a heart-to-heart with his team and stoked the old Vegas flame again, because the fire and determination throughout the lineup never wavered.
Vegas picked up an important two points, especially since both Calgary and San Jose secured wins earlier today. With the Sharks defeating the Canucks, the Knights have increased their lead over Vancouver in the Pacific Division to nine points, the same amount that separates them from the Flames and Sharks, who are now tied with 77 points.
Vegas will head to Colorado to take on the Avalanche Monday night.