The Knights’ defense played a huge role in the win, scoring both of Vegas’ goals and playing very well in front of Marc-Andre Fleury, who now leads the league in wins with 33.
In addition to contributing offensively, the defensemen were able to move the puck, attack in their own end and help out Fleury. Defensemen also contributed 14 of Vegas’ 38 shots. Nate Schmidt led the team with six.
That push from the defense made all the difference.
The Flames have now lost three straight games, leaving room for the San Jose Sharks to take the lead in the Pacific Division standings. If San Jose is able to do so, that could lead to a possible Flames-Golden Knights first-round playoff series.
In that case, tonight’s intense atmosphere, including a moment where Fleury removed his glove in a staredown with David Rittich, provided a solid foundation for what that series could look like.
Flower said after the game he would have fought Rittich.
While Fleury’s shutout streak ended at 200:41 when he allowed a goal to Travis Hamonic seconds after Vegas killed off a Calgary power play, he made 33 saves on 34 shots for a .971 save percentage in another stellar performance.
Shea Theodore opened the scoring in the game at 8:34 of the first as he converted on a power play. It was his 11th of the season, the most in a season by a Golden Knights defenseman in franchise history.
GOAL. Shea Theodore scores on the power play to open the scoring. pic.twitter.com/4IovFhibxC— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) March 7, 2019
Hamonic scored in the middle frame to make it 1-1. It appeared as though Calgary had knotted things up earlier when Johnny Gaudreau scored, but the goal was disallowed due to goaltender interference.
NO GOAL. Matthew Tkachuk made clear contact with Fleury's blocker, which prohibited him from making the save. Knights still lead 1-0. pic.twitter.com/fUy3DPoeai— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) March 7, 2019
That’s Matthew Tkachuk, who is known for things like this. He got caught in this case, and while goaltender interference is perhaps the hardest review to figure out, it gets called correctly here.
Calgary is the best third-period team in the league, but Vegas re-claimed the lead 9:30 into the third when Deryk Engelland scored the game-winning goal, his first tally in 36 games.
Though Vegas had four turnovers in the first period and four in the second, the Knights committed just one in the third as Vegas bounced back with a more cohesive team effort in an important divisional matchup.
The third period was also the Knights’ best period in terms of possession (though tonight’s numbers weren’t pretty, as demonstrated in the Corsi chart below), with Vegas outshooting Calgary 13-7 in the final 20 minutes.
After being pushed around and out-performed in the first two periods, the third was a welcome change of pace. The Golden Knights were able to make up for lost time and close out the game in a meaningful way.
The third period, which at one time this season appeared to be an issue for the Golden Knights, has become, if not a strength, a better asset.
The Golden Knights got a noticeable jump throughout the game from their first line. William Karlsson assisted on both goals, and Reilly Smith had the primary helper on Engelland’s game-winner.
That line had a 52.38 percent Corsi and 54.55 percent shot share.
Despite the fact that Paul Stastny made a trip to the locker room early in the game, the second line also performed well. Mark Stone still has yet to tally his first goal as a member of the Golden Knights, but he added the primary assist on Theodore’s goal and developed some quality chances once again.
The win gives Vegas (37-26-5) a 10-point lead over the Arizona Coyotes for third place in the Pacific. The Knights will face Calgary again this Sunday, but the Vancouver Canucks are up first on Saturday.