At this time of the year, you take two points any way you can get them.
Even if that means give up a 3-0 lead and still find a way to win in regulation.
Alas, that’s what happened to the Vegas Golden Knights. Thanks to Shea Theodore’s go-ahead goal with 1:10 remaining in regulation, the Golden Knights escaped Scotiabank Saddledome with a 5-3 win against the Calgary Flames on Sunday.
Vegas took a 3-0 lead at 3:39 of the second period thanks to Max Pacioretty’s 32nd goal of the season, building off the momentum of a very good first period that saw the Golden Knights limit Calgary’s offense and keep the danger chances to a minimum.
The Flames, who entered today in third place in the Pacific Division trailing Vegas and the Edmonton Oilers, rallied. Milan Lucic and Dillon Dube scored in the second to cut the lead to 3-2, and Matthew Tkachuk tied it with three minutes left in regulation off a 2-on-1.
Theodore’s shot from the left circle deflected off Andrew Magniapane’s stick and beat David Rittich from the crossbar for the 4-3 lead. Jonathan Marchessault ended a 10-game goal drought with the empty-netter at 19:42 for the 5-3 final.
Robin Lehner made 19 saves in his third start with the Golden Knights, improving to 3-0-0 since being acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline.
William Karlsson had two assists, and Nick Holden had a goal and an assist for Vegas (38-24-8). More importantly, the Golden Knights gained two more points heading into the all-important showdown Monday at Edmonton.
We really have come to the part of the year where it shouldn’t matter how wins are accumulated. Losses are going to be looked at more heavily with the gap in the Pacific Division getting tighter by the day.
The Golden Knights needed some sort of response after an uninspiring 4-0 loss at Winnipeg on Friday. Vegas was much more aggressive on the forecheck in the first 20 minutes, which opened the scoring with Ryan Reaves and Holden.
Given the heightened importance of division games this time of year, the Golden Knights could realistically afford to lose the other games (Colorado, Minnesota) so long as they take care of business in the games that matter. As a result, the Golden Knights played like a team that wants to establish separation in the Pacific against a team that had been playing — pardon the pun — red hot coming in.
Vegas got a win despite allowing three goals on 22 shots; a trend that has not been good outside of Lehner’s shutout against New Jersey on Tuesday. Lehner made key saves at right times, but also allowed goals that won’t look good on the highlight reel — i.e., the Lucic and Tkachuk goals.
But that’s why the Stanley Cup Playoffs don’t count for points. Get in, play hockey and let the chips fall as they may. The Golden Knights are proving to be a threat, when healthy, to go against any team in the West and contend.
Speaking of health, Alex Tuch is expected to come off long-term IR tomorrow, so unless a change of heart has had in the next 24 hours, expect Brandon Pirri to be sent back down to AHL Chicago. But much like goalie challenges, I’m usually wrong about these sorts of things.
All in all, good win for the Golden Knights who needed such a performance.
Now, try it again tomorrow. No pressure.