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Golden Knights defeat Rangers 5-1 for first win of 2022, spoiling return of Gallant and Reaves

Robin Lehner made his first appearance since Dec. 19.

New York Rangers v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Zak Krill/NHLI via Getty Images

It was an emotional evening when the Vegas Golden Knights hosted the New York Rangers Thursday at T-Mobile Arena.

Gerard Gallant and Ryan Reaves returned to Las Vegas for the first time, and both received video tributes and warm receptions.

In the end, though, it wasn’t their night.

In fact, it was a tough game for Reaves, who finished with a minus-three rating, three hits and a block in 12:06.

The Rangers played well in the first period, but Vegas took over midway through the second in a lopsided 5-1 victory, the Golden Knights’ first in 2022.

It was a complete effort by the Golden Knights, who pulled a 180 from a concerning and lackluster effort Tuesday against Nashville. The Knights remain at the top of the Western Conference standings with 47 points.

Robin Lehner made his first start since Dec. 19. He was tested early but had a strong opening frame and finished the game with 18 saves on 19 shots for a .947 save percentage.

The Knights opened the scoring late in the first period as Jonathan Marchessault cashed in on the power play.

Alexandar Georgiev, who manned the Blueshirts’ crease after Igor Shesterkin entered COVID-19 protocol earlier in the day, made two strong saves on Vegas’ initial attempts but was unable to come up with the stop on Marchessault’s ensuing backhand.

Chris Kreider evened things up 52 seconds into the second period, as the early-goal trend cost Vegas once again. This one was on Lehner, though, as the puck bounced off his glove.

Mark Stone, back in the lineup after missing four games, restored Vegas’ lead at 8:14 of the period on a questionable goal that entered the net off his skate. The goal ended up counting, as it was deemed to have redirected into the net, a view Gallant shared following the game.

From there, the Knights truly took over.

Mattias Janmark extended Vegas’ lead as he bested Libor Hajek on the rush, with Keegan Kolesar and Ben Hutton setting up the play.

The goal came against arguably the Rangers’ worst player, but it was a pretty move nonetheless. It was Janmark’s fifth goal in five games as he continues to elevate his play.

The third line continues to soar for Vegas. It was the team’s best line at 5-on-5, holding a 12-3 edge in Corsi, 6-1 advantage in shots and a 79.16 percent expected goal share while outscoring the Rangers 1-0.

But the Golden Knights got a goal from all four lines, including the fourth.

The Brett Howden revenge tour was in full effect, as the former Ranger gave Vegas a commanding 4-1 lead just 2:11 into the third period.

It was Howden’s second goal against the Rangers this season; half of his goals have come against his former club, as he continues to turn his game around in classic Misfit fashion.

Marchessault scored his second of the night to fully put the game away late in the third, beating Georgiev with a wrist shot on a 2-on-1.

Vegas faced a shorthanded Rangers team that didn’t play at its best, but it was a convincing turnaround for the Knights. They weren’t held to the perimeter the way they were earlier this week, scored four goals on the rush and capitalized on their chances in a complete effort.

Vegas outshot the Rangers 35-19, went 1-for-3 on the power play, 2-for-2 on the penalty kill and got points from 12 different skaters.

Next up for the Golden Knights is the long-awaited, highly-anticipated and sure-to-be-emotional return of Marc-Andre Fleury Saturday night.