The Vegas Golden Knights host the Dallas Stars tonight at T-Mobile Arena.
The Knights hold an all-time record of 7-2-0 against Dallas in the regular season. Vegas took the first game of the season series in thrilling fashion, tying the game with just 1:02 left in regulation and scoring 1:59 into overtime to pull off the comeback win.
Both teams sit in fifth place in their respective divisions, though Dallas (13-7-2) is tied for fourth, trailing Colorado by the slimmest of margins. Both Vegas and Dallas have multiple games in hand over the teams currently occupying the top three slots in each division, making the two points up for grabs tonight all the more appealing.
The Knights (14-10-0) have two games in hand over Calgary and San Jose and three over Anaheim. Vegas is in the rare position of needing to fight its way up the Pacific Division standings, though the focus needs to be “one game at a time.” This is especially true as the Knights continue to turn things while adding critical pieces back into the lineup along the way.
One such piece is William Karlsson, who returned for Monday’s game after missing five weeks; he’ll need time to ease back into heavy minutes, but his return is a major boost for the Knights.
However, momentum and confidence won’t be in short supply for Dallas, as the Stars have won seven games in a row and nine of their last 10.
The Knights have won two, though Monday’s 3-2 victory over the division-leading Flames was one of the Knights’ better home games of the season.
It was a much more consistent defensive effort, a strategy the Knights will need to replicate tonight against Dallas.
The Knights held Calgary without a single high-danger chance at 5-on-5 through two periods and gave up just two in the third (four at all strengths). The Knights finished the night with a 12-2 edge in high-danger chances at 5-on-5 (14-5 at all strengths), an 85.71 percent share. That went nicely with Vegas’ 68.4 percent expected goal share at 5-on-5.
It was a stark contrast to Vegas’ recent defensive woes. Only one team — the Philadelphia Flyers, who will be in town Friday night — has given up more expected goals against per 60 (2.77). The Knights sit at 2.72, not far off from a team in the midst of an extensive losing streak.
Dallas, meanwhile, has the fifth-best average with 2.13 expected goals against per 60.
To combat that, Vegas will need another big game from the top line, which remains red-hot. The three combined for a full-line 2-on-1 tally the other night and have a combined 18 points since Pacioretty returned five games ago.
But extending that streak will be a challenge, as Dallas has gotten superb goaltending from both Braden Holtby and Jake Oettinger during the recent stretch.
Either one would be a difficult matchup given how well they’ve been playing. The two have combined for 10 wins and both sit in the top-10 in multiple statistical categories.
Holtby is tied for eighth in save percentage (.928) and is tenth in goals-against average with a 2.18 mark. He is 5-4-1 and has won each of his last three starts after losing four straight.
Oettinger leads the NHL with a 1.41 goals-against average and .951 save percentage. He has yet to lose a start, going a perfect 5-0-0 and surrendering just seven total goals in just under 300 minutes in the crease. He has not given up more than two goals in a game.
This Dallas squad is firing on all cylinders, and one common thread throughout the streak has been getting on the board first.
In fact, the Stars have been the first to strike in nine out of their last 10 games; all nine of those resulted in wins. That doesn’t mean much once the puck is dropped, but limiting the opposing netminder’s goal support could go a long way.
One thing in the Knights’ favor is Pacioretty’s recent play, however unsustainable it may be. The 33-year-old continues to thrive since returning to the lineup; his goal at 17:06 of the first period against Calgary was his sixth in just seven games this season, and he has lit the lamp four times in his last three games. He has six goals and 10 points on the year.
So does Stars forward Tyler Seguin, though he has played 22 games to Pacioretty’s seven. Seguin has five points in nine career regular-season games against Vegas but has scored just twice in his last 10 games. He has been relegated to third-line duties but actually played on the fourth line in Monday’s 4-1 win against the Coyotes.
Instead, it is Dallas’ top-line trio of Joe Pavelski, Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz that leads the team in scoring with 19, 18 and 16 points, respectively.
Containing them will be critical.
How to watch
Time: 7 p.m.
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9