Goals were scored in the blink of an eye, and it was a statement performance by a Golden Knights team still looking to find its footing after starting the season ravaged by injuries.
But two late goals scored in quick succession tipped the scales in Vegas’ favor.
The Knights held a lead for just 4:06 of the game, but it was enough to extend the team’s winning streak to three games and snap Dallas’ at seven.
The Stars were targeting a franchise-best eighth straight win but ran into a stubborn Vegas squad that pulled off an improbable comeback.
The Stars entered the game having scored first in nine out of their previous 10 games, with all nine contests resulting in wins. So when Dallas opened the scoring 9:30 into the first period, it seemed as though Vegas was on its way to becoming the 10th.
In the end, the Golden Knights did not oblige.
Jason Robertson put the Stars up 1-0 midway through the first period with a power-play strike, deking to move Nic Roy off the puck at the top of the zone before firing the puck through a triple screen and past Robin Lehner.
It was the first of three power-play goals for Dallas, as special teams was the story early on.
The Knights had three power-play opportunities in the first period alone but were unable to convert on any of them. However, the carry-over 12 seconds of power-play time at the start of the second period set Vegas up for success.
Mark Stone scored just 19 seconds into the frame, seven seconds after the power play had expired. It was Stone’s second goal of the season but first that was not of the empty-net variety.
It kickstarted arguably one of the most exciting periods of hockey in the franchise’s first five seasons.
Just under two minutes after Stone’s equalizer, the Stars got their second power-play of the game. This time, Dallas only needed four seconds to make it count.
A double deflection bounced off Tyler Seguin’s stick and into the net, giving the Stars a 2-1 lead just 2:05 into the frame.
Nearly six minutes later, Joe Pavelski potted Dallas’ third goal on the man advantage with a trademark deflection in front of the net.
The Stars scored three goals on three shots in just 171 seconds of power-play time.
Pete DeBoer’s response was to pull the goalie.
But not necessarily because Lehner was responsible for the deficit. The Knights took three penalties and gave up three goals on 10 shots, none of which were on Lehner.
Rather, it was a message to the team.
The fans may not have gotten that message, as evidenced by the crowd’s cheers at the announcement of the goalie change, but the players read it loud and clear.
From that point on, a game that seemed destined to be merely a black mark on Vegas’ penalty kill transformed into an absolute classic, and that message provided the spark.
The response was palpable.
The Knights were in complete control of the play for most of the game but especially in the second period. In fact, Vegas held a 34-11 edge in Corsi, outshot Dallas 20-5 at 5-on-5 and managed a 78.13 percent expected goal share in the middle frame.
Standing in the way was Braden Holtby, who was outstanding through 40 minutes, keeping his team in the game with save after save. Two of those stops thwarted Reilly Smith’s best efforts as he came in alone, and two were on Jonathan Marchessault, who was skating in his 300th game as a Golden Knight.
But Marchessault would not be denied.
Eventually, he broke through on a delayed penalty, beating Holtby to cut the deficit in half and bring Vegas within one.
A goal in his 300th game as a Golden Knight pic.twitter.com/KdgNZcRSUz— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 9, 2021
It was Marchessault’s team-leading 11th goal of the year and came at 16:36 of the second.
For the rest of the period, the Golden Knights were utterly dominant. So much so that the final minute of the period had the intensity and urgency of the final minute of a playoff game. The Stars were able to escape the late push thanks to the end of the period; Dallas took a 3-2 lead into the locker room.
That break proved to be beneficial to Dallas, as Vegas was not nearly as desperate to start the third. Pavelski extended the Stars’ lead with his second of the game, making it a 4-2 contest 8:56 into the third. The Knights afforded him way too much time and space, and he took full advantage before beating Laurent Brossoit with a top-shelf laser.
The Stars came incredibly close to making it a 5-2 game when Seguin missed on an open net, but it was Vegas’ turn for a quick response.
That came in the form of a Michael Amadio goal 1:03 later.
It was somewhat of a soft goal considering how well Holtby had played, but he could only hold off the Knights for so long. Amadio’s tally brought Vegas back within one with 10 minutes to go.
Eventually, the captain made it happen.
Stone scored just under five minutes later to even things up at 4-4.
He pounced on a favorable rebound in the slot, beating Holtby as he slid across the crease to try to get back in position.
to do list and comeback complete pic.twitter.com/g6qFSANPfq— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 9, 2021
It was an explosive moment in the game and in the arena and marked the true return of Expressive Mark Stone.
Fittingly, No. 67 scored the game-winner 67 seconds later.
Max Pacioretty’s remarkable scoring pace continued, as he snagged his seventh goal in eight games and fifth in the last four, giving the Knights their first lead of the game with 4:06 remaining.
It proved to be the game-winner.
The Knights clung to that 5-4 lead after scoring three unanswered third-period goals, and while the game came down to the wire, the Knights came away victorious.
It may only be the 25th game of the season, but it was one of the most memorable contests in recent memory and could go down as one of the best in Golden Knights lore.
It also could very well prove to be a turning point in this season, and it’s sure to give the Knights a confidence boost moving forward.
It was Stone’s best game in a long time, as he looked like his old self again, making clutch plays and taking over the game at critical moments. It was his ninth game with three-plus points since joining the Golden Knights.
In the end, the Knights outshot the Stars 45-23. While Vegas went 0-for-3 and Dallas went 3-for-3 on the power play, the Knights outscored the Stars at 5-on-5 by a 4-1 margin, which proved to be the difference.
Brossoit came away with the win after stopping 12 of 13 shots in 32:15 of action. Holtby stopped 40 of 45 in a valiant effort but was unable to hold the dam, as the Knights were relentless throughout the second half of the game.
The win improves Vegas’ record to 15-10-0 on the year and gives the Knights a slight bump in the standings to fourth place in the Pacific Division.
It has been a tumultuous start to the season for Vegas, even if the Knights have managed to fight through the adversity and remain in the mix.
But tonight’s performance demonstrates what this team is capable of, and it’s especially indicative of just how valuable Stone and Pacioretty are to this team.
The Knights will look to make it four straight wins as they host the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday.