After an ugly showing against the Colorado Avalanche Thursday night, the Vegas Golden Knights had another chance to take on the Avs Saturday afternoon when the teams battled for sole possession of first place in the West Division.
The Golden Knights had a great response to their last game, as they looked much better in 5-on-5 play and across the board. They scored their first power play goal on the road since March 12.
Max Pacioretty scored the overtime game-winning goal, his fourth of the year.
The game got off to a roaring start, and the Avalanche picked up right where they left off as Joonas Donskoi beat Marc-Andre Fleury, who started his second straight game, with a beautiful snapshot that went bar-down on Fleury’s short side. The goal came just 1:16 into the game and was Colorado’s first shot on goal.
The Avalanche received their first power play of the game after Nic Hague was whistled for interference around eight minutes into the period. But the Golden Knights were able to kill of the penalty, which included a few dangerous chances for the Avalanche.
The Golden Knights began to get their feet and were able to generate some pressure in the Avalanche zone.
With around five minutes left, the Golden Knights were put on the power play after Gabriel Landeskog was sent to the box for cross checking Jonathan Marchessault in a puck battle down low. Vegas was able to capitalize, as Alec Martinez tied the game with a perfectly-placed one-timer.
The momentum that the Golden Knights generated was short-lived, however.
Devon Toews regained the Colorado lead just under a minute later after a turnover in the Vegas end by Mark Stone. Stone blew his coverage, leaving Toews wide open for the one-timer.
During the early stages of the second period, the Golden Knights continued to gain momentum and generate chances. One finally broke through around four minutes in when William Carrier deflected the puck into the net off a Shea Theodore shot to tie the game at 2-2.
Around halfway through the period the Golden Knights were sent to the power play for the second time in the game after Ryan Graves interfered with Keegan Kolesar. Although the Golden Knights were not able to score, they came close and continued to carry the momentum in a very well-played second period.
The Avalanche had a chance to steal back some of the momentum after Zach Whitecloud was whistled for interference, which sent Colorado to its second power play of the game. The Golden Knights were able to kill it off, but not without the help of a few beautiful saves by Fleury. Fleury finished the game with 22 stops on 24 shots for a .917 save percentage.
The Golden Knights started the third period and picked up right where they left off, and around four minutes into the period they were sent to their third power play of the game after a tripping call against Nathan MacKinnon. Vegas was unable to cash in on the opportunity despite their best efforts on the man advantage.
The Golden Knights went right back to the man advantage when Graves was whistled for the second time in the game. However, Colorado was able to kill off a less-inspiring power play from Vegas.
After the kill, the Avalanche began to buzz in the offensive zone, but Fleury was able to stand tall.
The Golden Knights began to take over, but Phillip Grubauer was able to keep them from taking the lead with some help from the goal post.
That being said, Vegas was in control in the third. Not only did the Knights have a 75 percent Corsi share at 5-on-5, but Vegas held Colorado to just four shots in the frame, ultimately outshooting the Avs 34-24.
In the dwindling moments of regulation, both teams seemed happy to take the point, so the game headed to extra time.
In the first minute of overtime, Grubauer robbed Theodore after the Golden Knights were able to break out into a 3-on-1 opportunity.
A few moments later, Alex Tuch made a great defensive play that helped Pacioretty break out into the offensive end. As Tuch drove to the net, Pacioretty’s attempt deflected off an Avalanche defenseman and off the goal post. The puck sat in the crease, and Pacioretty tapped it in for his fourth overtime winner of the season.
The Knights were much better this afternoon after one of the team’s worst efforts of the season. Vegas forced twice as many penalties as it took, and the special teams were effective.
With the win, the Golden Knights remain in first place in the division with 47 points.
Though Vegas never led at any point in regulation, the Knights took care of the all-important extra point, especially since the Knights have a game in hand.
One concern, or at least noticeable break from the norm, was the play of the top line of Mark Stone, Pacioretty and Chandler Stephenson, which seemed unusually vulnerable and showed some atypical lapses in coverage. In fact, the line finished with a minus-2 rating as both Colorado goals were scored with them on the ice. They finished the game with a meager 30.77 percent Corsi share with eight chances for and 18 against at 5-on-5.
However, their play improved as the game wore on, and they had some big chances late.
It’s likely an anomaly, though still worth noting. But the Knights were in the game all afternoon, and Pacioretty made up for it in overtime.
All in all, it was a very strong performance by the Knights, who evened up the season series at three games apiece.
Vegas will close out the month with two home games against the Kings starting Monday.