The Vegas Golden Knights and St. Louis Blues wrapped up their regular-season series Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena. The Knights looked to carry over their momentum from Friday’s overtime victory, which they were able to do with a 4-1 win in the second game of the back-to-back.
The win helps Vegas finish the season series against St. Louis with a 6-1-1 record.
The Golden Knights turned to Marc-Andre Fleury, continuing the goaltending rotation that has been stellar this season. Fleury was once again excellent, making 20 saves in his eighth straight win, the 491st in his career.
Reilly Smith recorded a hat trick in the win as the Knights swept the two-game set.
The game started and both teams were playing strong defensive hockey in the early going. The Golden Knights were generating almost all the scoring chances through the first period, however. In fact, the Knights held St. Louis to just three shots on goal.
That would pay off for Vegas as they were able to break the scoreless tie around 12 minutes into the period. It was Smith who tucked one past Blues netminder Ville Husso after Alex Tuch made a hard-working play from behind the net.
The Knights were sent to a penalty kill when Mark Stone was whistled for a slash after taking a high elbow when he was hit hard into the boards. However, the Golden Knights extended their lead while short-handed. Alex Pietrangelo made a great play to steal a pass and broke with Chandler Stephenson, who one-timed Pietrangelo’s feed to give Vegas a 2-0 lead.
The Blues finally put two shots (their first of the game) on Fleury with four minutes to go in the first; he handled both well, including using a double-pad save to keep the Blues off the scoresheet through the first period.
The Golden Knights continued to control play in the second period, and once again did not allow a shot on goal for an extended time to start the period. The Blues did not record a shot until almost eight minutes into the period, only their fourth of the game to that point.
Vegas went to its first power play of the game after Zach Whitecloud was hooked by Ryan O’Reilly. They were unable to capitalize on the opportunity, however.
Late in the period, Brayden Schenn walked in all alone on Fleury, but Fleury made an amazing glove save to keep the Vegas lead at two.
In the final moments of the period, the Golden Knights stood up for Fleury after he was tripped unnecessarily, which caused offsetting minors for the remainder of the period.
However, the Blues cut the lead to one with seconds remaining in the period. Colton Parayko lifted Shea Theodore’s stick behind the net and surprised Fleury with a backhand shot at 19:23 of the frame. It was Parayko’s second goal of the season, and it put St. Louis back in a game that Vegas had largely controlled through two periods.
Early in the third, there was another set of offsetting penalties as the teams continued to chirp at one another.
The Knights went to another power play at the four-minute mark, and this time it didn’t take long to make something happen.
Just 11 seconds into the man advantage, Smith jammed in his own rebound at the side of the net to regain the two-goal lead for the Knights with his second goal of the game.
Vegas went right back to the man advantage after Nic Hague was tripped up, but the Golden Knights were unable to make it a three-goal game despite their best efforts.
As the Blues continued to unravel, discipline became more and more of an issue. Once again, the Golden Knights went to the power play, this time with around eight minutes left in the period. But this one was short-lived as Pietrangelo was whistled for tripping 25 seconds later.
Whitecloud took a penalty for tripping with around five minutes left in the period, setting up a late power play for a Blues team that was hanging on. The Blues got their chance, but O’Reilly missed a wide-open net off a rebound, helping the Knights kill it off.
Jusso was pulled for the extra attacker with two minutes left in regulation, and Smith was able to ice it, completing his first career hat trick with an empty-net goal at 19:11 of the third.
The horn sounded on the Golden Knights’ 39th win of the season.
In the end, the Knights outshot St. Louis 29-21, but Fleury made the big saves when he needed to. He didn’t face a ton of shots, but he was tested throughout the game. The Knights also made the most of their opportunities. In fact, Vegas scored a goal at 5-on-5, on the power play and while shorthanded.
Smith led the way and is heating up just in time for the playoffs, as he has five goals in his last three games. The timing is perfect for the Knights, especially as Vegas continues to deal with injuries. Max Pacioretty missed tonight’s game, and Vegas eventually played with 10 forwards as Peyton Krebs, who started the game on the top line, left the game in the second period after taking a puck to the face. He did not return.
Martinez finished the contest with a game-high nine blocked shots in a team-high 23:42 of ice time. Ironically, Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson failed to record an assist on any of Smith’s goals.
That has set up what is sure to be a thrilling contest between the Knights and Avalanche on Monday night.
Vegas will have a chance to clinch the West Division as well as the President’s Trophy; one way or another, it should go a long way towards determining the seeding in this year’s postseason.