After an overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night, the Vegas Golden Knights were looking to rebound and overcome a five-game losing streak. They did just that against the Edmonton Oilers Monday night at T-Mobile Arena, officially eliminating Edmonton from playoff contention with a 3-1 win.
Vegas started off the first period hot, putting the pressure on Edmonton netminder Mikko Koskinen with plenty of shots. At 15:27, it paid off as Cody Eakin opened up the scoring with a nice wrist shot, roofing it to the top corner on Koskinen’s blocker side. Brandon Pirri and Alex Tuch earned the assists on the beautiful transition goal.
The Golden Knights started the second period in the best way you could imagine. Just 51 seconds into the frame, Jonathan Marchessault poked away the puck from Oilers star Leon Draisaitl and used his speed to create a breakaway, sliding the puck into the net to put Vegas up 2-0.
The goal was unassisted and a solid individual effort by Marchessault to make a statement for Vegas.
The Oilers were not going to back down too easily, however. Connor McDavid received a nice pass off the boards a little over three minutes later and beat Malcolm Subban with a wrist shot at 4:01 of the second. McDavid was given too much time and space in the slot, and he made Vegas pay.
McDavid tied his career high in goals with his 41st of the season, cutting Vegas’ lead to one.
As the second period was coming to a close, Vegas came very close to increasing the lead by two again, but Koskinen made a sprawling pad save in the dying seconds on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to keep Edmonton in the game.
A brilliant stop by the opposing goalie is worth crediting, especially since it was an example of Vegas’ building momentum.
The Knights continued to control the pace of the game in the third period, as evidenced in the Corsi chart below.
Vegas’ strong possession play prevented the Oilers from producing many high-danger chances to tie the game.
But as the final minute began ticking down, Edmonton was starting to put a bit more pressure on, drawing a penalty in the final 44 seconds thanks to an interference call on Tomas Nosek. Though McDavid came very close to tying the game, the penalty kill (with a little help from the post) came out on top, shutting down the best that the Oilers could throw at them.
Bellemare sealed the deal with a short-handed empty-net goal at 19:53 of the third. After getting shut down in the previous frame, Bellemare cashed in with his sixth goal of the year to help the Knights secure the 3-1 win.
While Subban only faced 19 shots, he made key saves when he needed to, finishing the game with an impressive .947 save percentage as he found his way back into the win column.
He had help from his teammates, though, as the Knights were the better team throughout the night. Vegas managed a Corsi For percentage of 65.67, maintaining CF percentages above 60 percent in all three periods. The Knights also held a convincing edge in high-danger chances, finishing the contest with a HDCF% of 70.
It was a particularly strong game for the third line, which featured Pirri alongside Eakin and Tuch. All three players managed CF percentages above 60, and all three found the scoresheet on Eakin’s first-period tally.
Overall, it was a huge sigh of relief for Vegas to come out with this win after suffering five straight losses.
Now that it is official that the Knights will play the Sharks in the first round, it is vital that they close out the season on a high note. San Jose is guaranteed home-ice advantage in the series, so a hot streak to end the regular season would be a great way for the Knights to head into their second playoff run against their experienced division rival.
The Golden Knights host the desperate Arizona Coyotes Thursday night in the final home game of the regular season; it should be another great showdown.