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Golden Knights at Coyotes Preview: Vegas set for first road game of season

How long can the Golden Knights keep up their winning streak?

Arizona Coyotes v Vegas Golden Knights
Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights celebrate on ice after the team’s 5-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Vegas Golden Knights saw perhaps their first complete game effort of the season on Wednesday against the Coyotes. After an ugly start to the game, the Golden Knights turned things around after Shea Theodore scored on Vegas’ first shot of the game; the Knights played a much better style after that, dominating the puck until the third period.

That led to them scoring five goals in the 5-2 win. That win also marked the franchise’s best start to a season ever with a 4-0-0 record so far in 2021. The game also featured the first power-play goal the team has scored so far this season, despite Vegas failing to convert on yet another 5-on-3 opportunity.

Vegas will now start a two-game road set against the Coyotes. These two teams are now intimately familiar with each other after two games, so who knows what two more will bring. Here are three things to watch as Vegas hits the road.

Neutral zone

The Golden Knights struggled mightily in the neutral zone in game one of this four-game set. They improved in game two, and were able, especially after Theodore’s first goal, to cut through the zone and make plays within it that led to success. Mark Stone in particular seemed to be able to skirt the Coyotes’ defense successfully.

The Golden Knights kept passes shorter and didn’t seem to test the middle of the ice that often when going through the neutral zone. They’ll need to copy that strategy to win their first game on the road this season, especially if the Coyotes bring in netminder Antti Raanta after two starts (and two losses) from Darcy Kuemper.

A new third line

At the start of Wednesday’s game, the line of Nicolas Roy, Keegan Kolesar and Alex Tuch made its debut. That line exited the game with two goals for (with Kolesar and Tuch collecting assists on the first two goals of the game) and a 50 percent shot share.

That line will likely remain intact after the success in Wednesday’s game, although it can still improve. The line had zero high-danger chances for, despite having three pretty ominous net-front presences, and two against. The trio also had just a 29.65 percent expected goal share in 7:31 of ice time together. Those numbers can be a lot better.

But for the first time, the bottom six seems to be clicking, and it’s largely because this line is showing signs of life. The fourth line of Ryan Reaves, Tomas Nosek and William Carrier is already a known commodity. This third line isn’t. That line proving to be capable would make it a lot easier for the Golden Knights to roll four lines.

81-71-19

Wednesday’s game against Arizona marked the lowest ice time for one Jonathan Marchessault. His 13:20 was only above the fourth line in terms of forward minutes. This wouldn’t be of concern if it wasn’t part of a trend. He’s been playing fewer and fewer minutes over the last three games, going from 17:24 in the season opener to 13:20.

While that can be partially blamed on his penalty minutes — two PIM on Wednesday after four PIM on Monday — it’s not a great trend. Especially since Marchessault has scored a point in every game so far for Vegas, with one goal and three assists on the year.

Wednesday’s game also saw a decline in minutes for William Karlsson (20:54 to 18:43) and Reilly Smith (19:38 to 16:27, his lowest of the season), despite the fact that Smith picked up an assist on Theodore’s second goal.

The Knights have gotten a lot out of this combination so far this season. The three have allowed zero high-danger goals against, something only two other Knights skaters (Nicolas Hague, who’s played in half the games, and Stone) can say. Also, the line has allowed just one goal against at 5-on-5. One.

It will be interesting to see their usage in tonight’s matchup.


How to watch

Time: 6 p.m.

TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, NHL.tv

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM

Opponent’s blog: Five For Howling