It was quite a finish.
The Knights, debuting their gold third jerseys, were less than 90 seconds away from getting shut out and suffering their first loss of the season. But William Karlsson had other plans, scoring at 18:38 of the third period to even things up at 1-1 and force extra time.
It then took Vegas just seven seconds of overtime action to complete the comeback, as Max Pacioretty scored his second of the season on a 2-on-1 set up immediately after the draw.
It was a game in which Vegas didn’t play its best hockey. Not even close.
But a vintage performance by Marc-Andre Fleury kept it a one-goal game until the end, and the Knights rewarded him for his efforts.
He was particularly clutch in the third period, making at least three huge stops to keep Vegas in the game.
The one goal he did give up was one he had no chance of stopping.
It was Max Comtois, the 2021 version of Oskar Sundqvist, who beat Fleury with a backdoor tap-in on a 3-on-1 after a bizarre sequence involving multiple Knights skaters falling over.
Not ideal when literally everyone on your line falls down and leaves poor Whitecloud all alone. pic.twitter.com/7pK8hE6ueC— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) January 17, 2021
There was nothing Fleury could do on the second-period tally, but he was otherwise perfect, stopping 21 of 22 shots for a .955 save percentage.
Comtois is the only player who has beaten a Knights goaltender this season.
Ducks netminder John Gibson played an excellent game as well. He stopped 31 of 33 shots and was a huge reason why the Knights were held off the scoresheet through 58 minutes of regulation. He was especially strong early in the game when Vegas had the better of the play.
Two of his biggest stops ironically came during one of Anaheim’s power plays. Both Chandler Stephenson and Reilly Smith had breakaway opportunities while shorthanded in the second period, but Gibson shut both of them down.
For the third period, the Ducks skaters helped Gibson by sitting back and slowing things down, and it was an effective strategy. In fact, the Ducks held Vegas to just two shots through the first 13 minutes of the frame.
However, the momentum shifted late, and it was enough to turn the tide.
There may not have been fans in the stands, and the Knights may have been wearing gold jerseys, but the end of this game had all the makings of a classic Golden Knights comeback: a huge Fleury save at one end leading to a late equalizer at the other.
Fleury made a key stop against Nicolas Delauriers with 2:24 left in the period before heading to the bench for the extra attacker.
The tying goal was a beauty.
Karlsson completed a gorgeous tic-tac-toe play with Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone on the 6-on-5, scoring on a one-timer on his knee in the slot with multiple Ducks surrounding him.
In overtime, a costly mistake by the Ducks led to the quick finish.
It was Stone, Pacioretty and Shea Theodore on the ice for the start of extra time, and once the Ducks forwards overplayed the puck, Stone and Pacioretty were off to the races in the opposite direction.
Stone held the puck an extra second on the 2-on-1, forcing the defender to commit. That left the lane clear and Pacioretty wide open to blast it top-shelf over the diving Gibson.
Pacioretty’s game-winner tied for the second-fastest overtime goal in NHL history and helped Vegas close out the win.
Notably, the third line of Nicolas Roy, Cody Glass and Alex Tuch had an outstanding game. They may not have converted, but the three players were dominant, finishing the night with a 100 percent share in Corsi (11-0), shots (6-0), scoring chances (8-0), expected goals (0.68) and high-danger chances (2-0).
Vegas’ third line struggled all of last year, so tonight’s performance is an encouraging sign moving forward.
Alex Pietrangelo had an up-and-down night. Early on, he and Brayden McNabb both made key poke-checks to break up high-danger scoring opportunities. He also made some strong plays throughout the game.
However, he had several turnovers, including one to Rickard Rakell that nearly resulted in a goal and forced Marchessault to take a penalty, was on the ice for many of Anaheim’s scoring chances including multiple odd-man rushes and finished with a Corsi For percentage of 43.75, the lowest on the team. He played the most with Theodore (13:51), though Theodore had his second solid game of the season and finished with a 62.5 percent Corsi share.
Keegan Kolesar mixed it up a little with Delauriers but played just 2:40, so it seems as though a lineup change could be on the horizon.
It wasn’t a perfect game for Vegas. The Knights still committed unnecessary turnovers, and the lone power-play opportunity of the game looked out of sorts once again.
But when it mattered, Vegas made the necessary plays and took home the two points.
The Knights are now undefeated in gold jerseys and undefeated so far in the 2020-21 season.
Next up is a four-game series against the Arizona Coyotes starting Monday night.