The Vegas Golden Knights secured a 4-3 victory against the Kings Tuesday night in Los Angeles to open the season at 1-0-0.
Vegas set a new franchise record for the most shots in a season opener with 51, and it was the last one that proved to be the difference-maker as Mark Stone scored the game-winner with just 24.9 seconds remaining in regulation.
Jonathan Marchessault, Jack Eichel and William Karlsson also scored for Vegas, and Logan Thompson — making his first start as the No. 1 goaltender — made 27 saves for the win.
But it was the Kings who opened the scoring when Gabriel Vilardi beat Thompson top-shelf through a screen at 10:36 of the opening frame.
Ben Hutton lost his stick in the zone, and the young dynamic duo of Quinton Byfield and Vilardi combined to take the lead.
Vilardi with the @LAKings first goal of the season. pic.twitter.com/srxigYJhvR— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 12, 2022
For much of the period, the fourth line was the only thing going for the Golden Knights. However, Vegas did pick up the pace towards the end of the frame, generating several solid scoring chances, including three on a late power play.
The Golden Knights were unable to capitalize on the carry-over power play, but they took advantage of a sloppy change at the tail end of it to even things up at 1-1.
Marchessault converted on a gorgeous 3-on-1, playing give-and-go with Karlsson before burying it past Jonathan Quick 1:41 into the middle frame.
a little misfit magic for the first goal of the season pic.twitter.com/uq29SbLTPr— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) October 12, 2022
It proved to be the lone goal of the second period, which was a much stronger 20-minute effort by the Golden Knights, even if the Kings held a 16-15 edge in shots.
Once again, the Golden Knights scored early as they took at 2-1 lead less than 90 seconds into the third. Once again, the goal came shortly after the expiration of an unsuccessful power play.
It took three tries, but Vegas finally converted.
Reilly Smith’s initial point shot hit Quick in the mask, and Chandler Stephenson’s follow-up got shut down, but Eichel cleaned up the rebound at the side of the net at 1:27 of the frame.
Jack Eichel cellys go hard #VegasBorn | #BudLightCelly pic.twitter.com/jHhkZeEf9d— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) October 12, 2022
However, it took the Kings just 2:35 to erase the one-goal deficit.
Defenseman Sean Durzi found Anze Kopitar streaking down the left side of the zone. Kopitar’s patience drew Thompson out of position, and Kopitar skated behind the net before finding Adrian Kempe in front of the empty cage.
Anze Kopitar shows unbelievable patience in setting up Adrian Kempe, tying it back up at 2!#GoKingsGo pic.twitter.com/iGPNa3hH4E— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights & News (@HockeyDaily365) October 12, 2022
The see-saw third period continued when Vegas took a 3-2 lead 3:15 later.
This time, the Golden Knights were able to capitalize on the man-advantage, and it was a breath of fresh air for a team that has struggled mightily on the power play for several seasons.
Karlsson grabbed his first goal of the year and second point of the game when he deflected an Alex Pietrangelo shot-pass from the slot. Nicolas Roy recorded the secondary assist on the play.
William Karlsson restores the Vegas lead in the third on the power play!#VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/sLtHgqvMBT— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights & News (@HockeyDaily365) October 12, 2022
But the Kings evened things up once again when Arthur Kaliyev scored just as Vegas killed off a slashing minor. Kaliyev beat Thompson off a backhand feed from Trevor Moore, who managed to get his stick free after Stephenson tied it up in front of the net.
Though the Kings poured on the pressure in the ensuing minutes, Stone stunned the crowd when he beat Quick with just 24.9 seconds left on the clock, firing a laser from the slot for the game-winner.
Mark Stone called game— SB Nation NHL (@SBNationNHL) October 12, 2022
Vegas won the special teams battle, going 3-for-3 on the penalty kill and 1-for-5 on the power play. Though there were a few stale opportunities, the man-advantage looked revitalized, as did much of the offense.
Vegas also controlled play at 5-on-5, finishing above 60 percent in Corsi (61.26 percent), shot share (63.64 percent), scoring chances (67.71 percent), high-danger Corsi (61.54 percent) and expected goals (71.11 percent).
Bruce Cassidy picked up his first win as the Golden Knights’ bench boss, and it was evident that he has implemented widespread changes.
It’s only one game, but there were a lot of encouraging takeaways from the win.
Vegas’ top players showed up, as Marchessault, Eichel, Karlsson and Stone found the scoresheet. Plus, Eichel and Stone looked healthy and dynamic.
Additionally, the power play looked threatening, which has not been the case for a long time.
Thompson wasn’t perfect but played well, and defensive lapses led to two of the three goals against. He did over-commit on Kopitar on the Kings’ second goal, but he was otherwise solid and looked confident.
Kessel didn’t have a great debut, taking two penalties in 13:56. However, the Kessel-Eichel-Smith line led the team with a 22-8 edge in Corsi.
The fourth line had a very strong game, especially early on. Paul Cotter — and Brett Howden, for that matter — had noticeable performances and combined for seven scoring chances; Roy, Howden and Cotter led the team in individual high-danger Corsi.
In addition to Karlsson, Stephenson and Pietrangelo also had multi-point nights.
The Golden Knights will be back at it when they host the Blackhawks in the home opener Thursday night.