The Vegas Golden Knights have had a rough start to the 2021-22 season, but things got a little brighter when the team secured a 3-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night in Denver.
The Knights had lost four consecutive games heading into the contest, but a strong start and a steady effort helped the Knights come out on top for the first time since the season opener.
The Knights were the better team early, and it paid off.
Chandler Stephenson scored his team-leading third goal of the season just two minutes into the first period. The backhand chip shot went over the shoulder of Darcy Kuemper and ended any discussion of Vegas’ shutout clock following Sunday’s 2-0 loss.
hot start for our leading scorer pic.twitter.com/ikjYsr8ACg— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) October 27, 2021
Daniil Miromanov got things started with a good chance in front after joining the rush, and he created enough confusion to give Stephenson time to collect the juicy rebound left off a point shot by Brayden McNabb.
Miromanov got a secondary assist on the play for his first NHL point in just his second career game.
Colorado threatened to steal the momentum when Nic Hague got called for tripping just 5:27 into the frame, but the Golden Knights pulled out an impressive effort on the penalty kill to preserve the one-goal lead.
Vegas was extremely effective in preventing Colorado from gaining entry, clogging the middle of the ice and standing the Avs up at the blue line to get clears and force Colorado to reset or go offside. Vegas held the Avs to just one shot on goal.
But just over three minutes later, Hague took another penalty, this time for holding as he tried to slow down Nathan MacKinnon as he drove to the net. This put the Knights on the penalty kill for the second time in the first 8:29 of the game.
However, the opportunity marked the return of the Vegas power kill, as a very strong individual effort by Reilly Smith led to a shorthanded goal for the Knights.
Smith forced a turnover at the blue line and headed up the ice. He was out of gas but fought through the rush, and he had the sense of mind to protect the puck while Kuemper went down, extending the play before sliding it underneath him.
It was his first goal of the season.
The Knights showed a refreshing sense of urgency in the first period, but it wasn’t a one-and-done push. Even though the Avalanche eventually took over and had twice as many shot attempts at 5-on-5 (18-9), the Knights gave up just two high-danger chances.
Another power play came and went for the Knights, but it was a strong period for a Knights team desperate to turn the page.
Robin Lehner had to make a point-blank save just over three minutes into the second period but was able to keep Sampo Ranta’s one-timer out of the net.
Lehner stopped 26 of 27 shots on the night for a .963 save percentage.
Colorado had a much better overall effort in the second period, but Vegas kept the Avs out of the high-danger areas, holding them to four such chances. The Avs came close to getting on the board when Andre Burakovsky hit the pipe on a shot Lehner didn’t see, and Lehner gave up an enormous rebound up the middle of the ice later in the frame, but the Knights were able to get to the puck first and preserve the two-goal lead.
Vegas continued its streak of ineptitude on the power play, though Smith had some good chances in front as his strong play continued. Colorado blocked three Vegas shots on the Knights’ second man-advantage of the game, but all Vegas managed to do was kill two minutes off the clock.
Physicality picked up quite a bit in the second period, and things boiled over with 1:15 remaining.
Jack Johnson delivered a high hit on Keegan Kolesar, who did not have the puck, catching him off guard near the bench just outside the blue line.
Nicolas Roy jumped to his defense and challenged Johnson immediately.
Roy gets two for instigating, five for fighting and a misconduct.— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) October 27, 2021
Johnson gets five for interference, five for fighting, and a game misconduct. pic.twitter.com/IB3zABBocZ
The hit was reviewed and deemed a five-minute major for interference. With Roy getting two minutes for instigating, the Knights came away with two minutes of 4-on-4 action followed by three minutes of a major power play.
However, the Avalanche responded immediately, taking advantage of the open ice and striking just 38 seconds later.
It was a goal Vegas could not afford to surrender but did anyway. Cale Makar’s shot from the point trickled through Lehner to cut the lead in half and give Colorado new life heading into the third period down by just one.
In the third, Pete DeBoer called timeout with 1:27 left on the power play after an uninspired start, but nothing came of it.
It was a huge missed opportunity in a critical situation, but the Knights didn’t come close as the power play struggles continue.
The Avalanche didn’t get their first shot of the period for nearly seven minutes. Tyson Jost made a strong move on Hague to get to the inside, and while there wasn’t much on the shot, Lehner made the pad save to keep it a one-goal game.
That started a wave of chances for the Avalanche, the best of which came from Colorado’s captain.
Gabriel Landeskog had Lehner beat, but Hague saved a goal by stretching out and getting a stick on Landeskog’s wraparound chance.
Lehner was well out of position and left the entire net open, but Hague dove across the crease and got enough of the puck to allow Lehner to get back and make the pad save.
From there, the Avalanche started to pour on the pressure. But in the end, Colorado’s top players ran out of steam after an extended shift with the goalie pulled.
Stephenson came away with the puck and banked it off the boards to set up a wide-open Evgenii Dadonov for the empty-net goal. Dadonov made the unselfish play and passed the puck to Kolesar on the 2-on-0, and while it appeared as though Dadonov may have tipped the shot on the way in, Kolesar was credited with the goal, his first of the year. No matter who scored, it was the finishing touch on a gutsy win by the Golden Knights.
It wasn’t perfect, but the Golden Knights took care of business and got the win they so desperately needed.
The power play remains atrocious, and the Knights are now 0-for-14 on the year.
Significantly, the Knights held Colorado to just eight high-danger chances at 5-on-5 on the night, which was a marked improvement after giving up 10-plus in individual periods. The MacKinnon line was held to just three.
Also, the Knights’ penalty kill woke from its stupor and showed flashes of last year’s dominance.
Alex Pietrangelo played a game-high 27:43, but it was Hague who truly stepped up despite taking two penalties.
With such a depleted roster, it was imperative that the Knights did deep and put forth a team-wide effort. They did.
The Knights needed a win. They got one.
They’ll look to build off that tomorrow night in Dallas.
They may have to do so without Janmark, though it’s unclear if he suffered an injury. Laurent Brossoit likely will get his first start with the Golden Knights.