The Vegas Golden Knights and Los Angeles Kings will finish up their eight-game season series tonight at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles. The Knights are coming off a 4-2 win in which they scored four unanswered goals, and they have won five of the seven matchups thus far, outscoring the Kings 24-17.
Monday night’s win was the Knights’ third in a row and fourth in their last five after losing three of four at the start of the month.
It’s a good time for a winning streak, and the Knights will look to extend it tonight.
Vegas is definitely trending in the right direction.
Wins and points are crucial at this point of the season, particularly as the West becomes more of a two-man race with Vegas and Colorado duking it out for first place. But it’s how the Knights have won their last three games that is encouraging.
None of the three wins have been perfect performances, but things finally appear to be clicking, and all three wins have been team-wide efforts.
The first was a 7-4 victory against Arizona.
The Knights emphasized the need for a strong start, and they delivered. The Knights scored four goals in the first 8:44 of the game — in the span of just 5:41 — and went on to add a fifth goal four minutes into the second period. Somewhat understandably, Vegas took the pedal off the gas with a 5-0 lead, but the Knights were able to withstand the late push by Arizona, which included two goals in the span of 58 seconds and a quick response just 15 seconds after Vegas potted its sixth of the night.
It was an unsettling finish, but the Knights had done enough with a completely dominant first period, which featured 22 shots on goal and 10 high-danger chances at 5-on-5. Ten out of 12 Vegas forwards recorded a point, and 13 total skaters found the scoresheet.
In the follow-up meeting against Arizona, the Knights played a stellar defensive game and came away with a hard-fought 1-0 win thanks to the play of Marc-Andre Fleury and the lone goal from Tomas Nosek.
Vegas hit the post at least four times, but it was one of the Knights’ best defensive efforts of the season and a strong response after giving up three third-period goals in the previous game.
As expected, the Coyotes came out hungry, but the Knights were able to weather the storm and keep it scoreless through 20. Vegas then took control in the second and third periods with a 42-24 edge in Corsi at 5-on-5, and Nosek scored the game-winner at 10:38 of the third.
On Monday, Vegas picked up its third straight win, though things did not go according to plan early on. The Kings scored the lone goal of the opening frame and took a 2-0 lead 8:57 into the second. But once again, the Knights didn’t wait until the third period to fight back, as has often been the case this season. Instead, the Knights turned things around in the second period and generated six high-danger chances at 5-on-5, ultimately tying the game at 2-2 on a very late shorthanded goal by Mark Stone.
Vegas added two more tallies in the first 8:22 of the third — giving the Knights four unanswered goals — for the 4-2 win.
During the streak, Alex Tuch snapped a 15-game goal drought, Stone snapped a 10-game drought, Max Pacioretty finally got his 300th goal, and Nosek — as well as both goaltenders — continued to shine.
The Knights certainly didn’t play without mistakes, but they demonstrated improvements in areas the team has struggled with all year; continuing to do so will be key for Vegas.
The next test is another matchup against Los Angeles.
The Kings made two moves at the trade deadline, including moving Jeff Carter to Pittsburgh and re-signing first-line winger Alex Iafallo to a four-year, $16 million contract.
The Kings have gone 2-5-0 in April but won two of four meetings against the Knights in March.
Interestingly, both of those wins came in the second game of a two-game set, so the Kings did not go quietly. That means that since the first two games of the series back in early February, the Knights have not been able to defeat the Kings two games in a row.
Los Angeles may be 20 points behind Vegas in the standings, but that doesn’t mean this game can be taken lightly, so Vegas needs to break that pattern tonight.
The Knights had a relatively quiet trade deadline, but the lone acquisition, Mattias Janmark, is expected to make his Golden Knights debut tonight.
Janmark had 10 goals and 19 points in 41 games with Chicago this season after being part of Dallas’ Stanley Cup run last year. His current 0.46 points-per-game rate is the best of his career.
However, Janmark has regressed significantly over the last month and comes to Vegas in the midst of quite a slump. He has just one point (an assist) in his last 10 games.
But maybe he will end that tonight and score a goal in his first game; after all, it has become almost a rite of passage for Golden Knights skaters.
Janmark should slot in on the third line with Tuch and Nosek, but he’s the type of player who can move around the lineup. He provides bottom-six depth and should be a boon to an already-thriving penalty kill. Of Janmark’s 19 points this season, seven have come on the man advantage and one was a shorthanded goal.
He should fit in, as the Knights are getting offense from throughout the lineup and are scoring goals at all strengths.
In two of the last three games — the blowout win against Arizona and Monday’s win against the Kings — the Knights scored a power-play goal, a shorthanded goal and a goal at 5-on-5. Against the Kings, Stone’s game-tying goal late in the second period was just the Knights’ third shorthanded goal of the season, with Reilly Smith scoring the other two, one of which came at the start of this winning streak.
Perhaps the most important goals were on the power play, however, as the Golden Knights have struggled on the man advantage all season.
Jonathan Marchessault’s goal in the raucous first period against Arizona broke the Knights’ 0-for-18 streak, which had spanned seven games. The Knights technically went 0-for-2 in the 1-0 game, though one of those power plays came with just 15 seconds left in the contest. The Knights’ power-play goal the other night was Pacioretty’s 300th, and it came on an absolute rocket.
The Knights were more patient with the puck and got bodies in front, as Stone set the screen for Pacioretty’s goal.
Simply put, they need more of that.
The Knights aren’t going to be feared for their power play — like Colorado, Boston or Tampa Bay — but it’s imperative that the Knights continue to generate chances. Special teams can dramatically shift momentum, so even if they don’t score, the Knights need to continue to pose a threat on the power play.
On the flip side, the penalty kill has been the best part of Vegas’ game all year. That being said, the Knights have been guilty of committing too many stick infractions of late, so that’s another thing they need to be mindful of in tonight’s matchup.
Most importantly, the Knights need to be ready to play.
In both of the Kings’ wins against Vegas this season, Los Angeles took a 2-0 lead, so a good start has to be front-and-center for the Knights.
How to watch
Time: 7 p.m.
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM