With a 5-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night, the Vegas Golden Knights now have their best start to a season in franchise history at 4-0-0. They won both games against the Coyotes at home after winning two against the Ducks and hold the best record in the NHL.
The Golden Knights started the game off well with Shea Theodore scoring on the team’s first shot of the night:
After 32 shots from the blue line, this was the first Vegas goal scored by a defenseman this season. Alex Tuch and Keegan Kolesar set the screen on the play as part of a new-look third line with Nicolas Roy.
Before the goal, the Golden Knights had been struggling against an imposing Coyotes defense, much like they had on Monday. But that changed after Theodore’s goal, at which point Vegas began to impose its own will.
Just over three minutes after Theodore’s goal, the third line was back on the ice and helped Alex Pietrangelo get his first goal in a Golden Knights jersey:
Kolesar got an assist on the play for his first point in the NHL; he was an instrumental part of both goals as a large net-front presence, and he was rewarded with a season-high 8:18 of ice time.
In the second period, Vegas got another key offensive play from a blue liner as Nicolas Hague made an aggressive play in the neutral zone, and the puck found its way to Mark Stone, who took care of the rest:
Hague with the deflection in the neutral zone, Pacioretty to the captain, nasty finish at the end.— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) January 21, 2021
Second goal in four games for Stone. He's got six points during a four-game point streak.#VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/1RIUr4GdoC
It was Stone’s second goal of the season, and he made it look easy. This would prove to be the game-winning goal, but there was plenty of scoring to come.
After Vegas took a 3-0 lead, Nick Schmaltz answered just 73 seconds later with his second of the series, bringing Arizona within two.
But Vegas had an answer of its own five minutes into the final frame.
Theodore entered the high-danger area and converted a pass from Reilly Smith into his second goal of the night:
It was an impressive display from Smith, as he collected the puck on the fly and set up Theodore perfectly.
Tuch would make it 5-1 just over a minute (73 seconds, ironically) later:
Forehand to backhand, beats Kuemper five-hole. What a goal from 89.— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) January 21, 2021
Golden Knights are officially on the board on the power play. Assist to Stone on Tuch's second goal of the season.#VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/NkgcaavZMy
Significantly, Tuch’s tally was Vegas’ first power-play goal of the season, though it came on a transition play. Prior to the goal, the Knights had gone 0-for-10 through four games.
This also marked (pun intended) Stone’s seventh point of the season, which puts him in first place in the NHL.
While multiple players have scored multiple goals, Stone continues to be a driving force in both directions. His 20:32 was the most ice time among Vegas forwards and third-most among all Vegas skaters.
But the Coyotes didn’t quit, and Phil Kessel scored on the doorstep to make it a 5-2 game just over a minute later.
Vegas then had a 5-on-3 power play but once again failed to convert. The Knights are now 2-for-16 with a two-man advantage.
This time, Vegas even took a timeout to discuss strategy, though it still didn’t work. The main problem was too many passes and not enough shots on goal.
Though both teams traded power plays late in the game, Vegas held its three-goal lead, winning the game by a final score of 5-2.
Marc-Andre Fleury made his second start of the season and saved 21 of 23 shots. He made a key save early in the game and picked up his second win of the season.
However, the most impressive save wasn’t from Fleury but from rookie (yes, he’s technically still a rookie) defenseman Zach Whitecloud:
Whitecloud continues to impress, especially with plays like this.
He was one of many who had a strong game, as this was the first complete game effort for the Knights so far this season. They never trailed and were able to score in all three periods. For the first time this year, they looked as dominant as they perhaps should look in this division. Even if at times they let the Coyotes back in it, it was never for long.
Vegas outshot the Coyotes 29-23, and while the Knights still took a lot of penalties — four for eight penalty minutes, all of which were killed — they were able to draw even more.
Vegas is now rolling, and the four-game winning streak proves it.
The Golden Knights and Coyotes will head to Arizona for the other two games of the series, the first of which will be Friday night; Vegas will look to extend its winning streak to five games to open the season.