But the Knights came away with the all-important two points, extending their winning streak to three games and improving their record to 2-0-0 on their current four-game road trip.
Vegas has won six of its last seven games and now sits comfortably in third place in the Pacific Division with 36 points.
An eventful third period saw the two clubs combine for six goals (five of which counted), with both teams scoring two goals in quick succession to really make things interesting.
But it was the Devils that opened the scoring early on, as Jack Hughes gave New Jersey a 1-0 lead just 1:41 into the contest.
Hughes scored on a rebound after Brayden McNabb lost the puck in his skates and Lehner got caught out of position, unable to recover.
Dougie Hamilton and former Golden Knights forward Tomas Tatar got the assists on the go-ahead goal.
The Golden Knights were unable to take advantage of 54 seconds of 5-on-3 action, but Dylan Coghlan capitalized after the first power play expired, making it a 1-1 game at 10:27 on an absolute blast from the point.
sure as heck wouldn't want to get in front of one of his shots pic.twitter.com/I6jHXONSP5— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 17, 2021
Coghlan was a surprise addition to the lineup with Shea Theodore being a late scratch, and he made his presence felt early with his second power-play goal of the year.
Hughes made the Devils’ offense tick all night and was by far the best player on either team.
In the opening frame, he was on the ice for 14 of New Jersey’s 15 shot attempts, 13 of which came at 5-on-5. On the night, he finished with 0.79 individual expected goals as well as six individual high-danger chances at 5-on-5.
The Devils held an edge in high-danger Corsi in both the first and second periods, recording all five 5-on-5 high-danger chances in the first and holding a 6-2 edge in the second (they finished the game with an 11-4 advantage at 5-on-5).
But the Golden Knights made a high-danger chance count early in the second, as William Carrier deflected the puck behind Devils netminder MacKenzie Blackwood to give Vegas a 2-1 lead.
It was a great all-around play by the entire fourth line, as Brett Howden found Keegan Kolesar from behind the net, and Kolesar sent a shot-pass to Carrier in front.
The Devils were the better team in the second period once again, but the Golden Knights scored the lone goal of the frame.
Vegas added two more in the span of just 33 seconds in the third period, taking a 4-1 lead at 8:10 of the final frame.
The first came on a laser by William Karlsson, who beat Blackwood shortside.
right over the shoulder pic.twitter.com/OHlSn7QEvp— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 17, 2021
It was Karlsson’s third of the year, and Coghlan got his second point of the night with the secondary assist.
The second was a quick snapshot off the stick of Nicolas Roy. It was one Blackwood should have stopped, but it gave Vegas a commanding three-goal lead in the blink of an eye.
Tatar cashed in on the power play to make it 4-2 two minutes later, scoring while falling and beating Lehner top-shelf.
However, the Knights got a power play of their own less than a minute later when Max Pacioretty was tripped up by Nathan Bastian.
It may have been an advantage for the Knights, but it was New Jersey that made the most of it.
After Lehner stopped Jimmy Vesey on a shorthanded breakaway, Vesey got the last word and scored on a deflection to make it 4-3 with just over seven minutes left in the third.
Pre-game soccer pays off. pic.twitter.com/5kwalbElq7— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) December 17, 2021
It was the Devils’ second goal in the span of 2:26.
With the goalie pulled, New Jersey looked for the equalizer late in the game, but Jonathan Marchessault scored on the empty net after a Karlsson attempt got deflected wide of the net. Marchessault’s 13th of the year made it 5-3 with 67 seconds left in the game.
Hughes scored his second of the night with just 11.8 seconds remaining in the third, but the play was deemed offside, thus nullifying the goal and adding some time to the clock.
Things erupted on the ice with 15 seconds left in the third, and even Lehner got involved, ripping his helmet off and throwing a punch at New Jersey’s Kevin Bahl before getting a misconduct.
Lehner gets super heated & gets thrown out of the game. Brossoit has to come in to finish the last 15 seconds. pic.twitter.com/ENzIxc7ysC— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) December 17, 2021
In the end, the Knights came away with the 5-3 win in the first matchup between these clubs in nearly two years.
It wasn’t a great game for Vegas by any means.
Though Coghlan scored on the power play, it was a rough night for Vegas’ special teams. The power play looked more like itself, which wasn’t a good thing. It was out of sorts and ultimately gave up a key goal to New Jersey.
In fact, both of New Jersey’s third-period goals were scored on special teams, with one coming on the power play and the other while shorthanded.
It also wasn’t a particularly strong night for Lehner, who seemed to struggle with his lateral movement and appeared to be late on a few of the Devils’ goals. However, he stopped 23 of 26 shots for his 13th win of the year.
But the fact that the Knights were able to get the two points and score five goals without a single point from the top line is a promising turn of events, and it’s something this team will need moving forward.
Vegas is now 2-0-0 so far on this four-game road trip.
The Golden Knights have a quick turnaround with another game tomorrow night against Gerard Gallant and the New York Rangers. They will finish up the road trip Sunday against the Islanders.