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Year 2, Game 56: Golden Knights bounce back after rough first, win 4-3 against Red Wings

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After a terrible first 20, Vegas looked its best in weeks against Detroit

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Detroit Red Wings
Vegas Golden Knights center William Karlsson celebrates after his goal
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

If this game is thought about as 40 minutes instead of 60, this was one of the Vegas Golden Knights’ best outings of 2019. The first line was reunited, the special teams improved, and Marc-Andre Fleury came alive, making 23 saves on 25 shots (15-for-15 at 5-on-5) in the second and third.

The Golden Knights (31-21-4) scored three times in the third period — two from Jonathan Marchessault — in a 4-3 win against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Thursday.

The first period was a disaster. The Golden Knights were outplayed by the Red Wings, allowed a weak goal from a bad angle by Gustav Nyquist, and didn’t get any consistent offense. It was one of Vegas’s worst periods this season.

Afterwards, the Golden Knights picked up a full head of steam. In the final 40 minutes, Vegas outbattled the Red Wings, getting nine high-danger chances to Detroit’s eight (at even strength) and four goals to their two.

Just 14 seconds into the second period, Alex Tuch drew a penalty and the Golden Knights scored on that ensuing power play; Marchessault’s first goal at 2:04. That would provide the spark Vegas would need through the rest of the game.

Karlsson scored at 7:08 for the 2-1 lead, and Marchessault extended it to 3-1 at 10:22.

The penalty kill, for its part, killed 3-of-4 penalties and ended a high-sticking call taken by Paul Stastny with a goal, a nifty pass from Stastny to William Karlsson, who, well, if dunking is a thing in hockey, Karlsson dunked it.

There’s no one near Karlsson, and Stastny draws Howard to him, allowing a wide-open net for Karlsson to just jam home the puck. That’s not even a shot; that’s like a golfer giving up on the putt and just forcing it in.

Also noticeable about the first two goals is the presence of Reilly Smith. Perhaps that’s what led to Smith being put back onto the first line, where he contributed a primary assist on Marchessault’s second goal of the night.

The first line improved with the re-addition of Smith, jumping from a 33.33 percent shot share to 60 percent (at 5-on-5). Vegas’s first line dominated throughout the game, but the renewal of Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith led to their most successful game in weeks.

Smith also did this, probably excited about his expanded role:

The third line looked noticeably improved with Valentin Zykov as well, jumping in every statistical category and becoming a threat once more. Perhaps this should be a full-time switch.

Detroit cut the lead to 3-2 at 4:41 of the third on Michael Rasmussen’s seventh goal of the season, but Vegas silenced the comeback on Brayden McNabb’s goal at 11:07. The play may have been offsides, but the Golden Knights are fortunate that Red Wings’ coach Jeff Blashill did not challenge the play.

A highlight reel of Fleury’s impressive saves from this game would be a long one, but suffice it to say, Flower was in the zone, finishing the game with 36 saves.

After a tough losing streak and a climactic win against Tampa Bay, this was as close to a sigh of relief as Vegas has provided this season. The Golden Knights now return home on a hot streak to play the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday.