Logan Thompson got the nod for Vegas and made the most of the opportunity by earning his first career NHL win, finishing the night with 35 saves on 36 shots for a .972 save percentage.
It also was a momentous night for Jack Eichel, who scored his first goal as a member of the Golden Knights; it turned out to be the game-winner and was part of his first multi-point effort with his new team.
Eichel and his linemates all recorded a goal and an assist in the win, which marked the team’s 10th straight against the Sharks.
It was Thompson’s second career start after manning the pipes Jan. 4 against Nashville (a 3-2 loss despite Thompson’s best efforts). Tonight, however, he was rewarded with the victory and played a critical role in helping the Knights put an end to their three-game losing streak.
But it was Keegan Kolesar who opened the scoring just over 10 minutes into the first period.
The Knights failed to take advantage of a four-minute power play early in the first, but Kolesar scored on a long-range shot 37 seconds after it expired.
you got Kolesar'd pic.twitter.com/w3Q3zsSZep— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) February 21, 2022
It was Kolesar’s fifth of the season and certainly a shot James Reimer should have stopped, but nevertheless it gave Vegas a 1-0 lead at 10:14 of the first.
The true highlight of the period, however, was Eichel’s give-and-go tally, which made it 2-0 just four minutes and 20 seconds later.
Jack Eichel has arrived pic.twitter.com/tEsbGRNSeN— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) February 21, 2022
Eichel drove to the net after finding Chandler Stephenson alone in front; Eichel had been skating around the zone looking for something to open up, and once he found it, he followed the play. Stephenson held the puck, skated behind the net and then returned the favor, setting up Eichel for the tap-in, which beat Reimer just inside the far post.
It was Eichel’s first goal since Jan. 28, 2021, and the entire shift was a great example of his vision, skill and offensive instincts; it capped off his four-shot opening frame, his best in three games with the Knights.
It wasn’t a perfect period for Vegas, but Thompson came up with clutch saves (several of which were shorthanded attempts by the Sharks) to help the Knights carry a 2-0 lead into the locker room.
That lead was extended early on in the second period.
In fact, Max Pacioretty potted his third goal in two games just 83 seconds into the middle frame to put Vegas up by three.
one guy knew this puck went in and his name is Max Pacioretty pic.twitter.com/7kYvwfuwes— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) February 21, 2022
The top-shelf shot caught Reimer off guard, and it was in and out of the net so quickly that it required a brief review. However, it was given the green light, giving Pacioretty 15 goals on the year and the Knights a three-goal cushion.
Eichel was credited with the secondary assist on the play, giving him three points in his last two games.
Thompson’s strong play preserved Vegas’ lead and kept the Sharks at bay, but midway through the third, San Jose made things interesting.
The Sharks finally broke through, ending Thompson’s shutout bid in the process, as Nick Bonino scored on a one-timer to make it 3-1 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the frame.
Shea Theodore lost his footing behind the net, leaving Bonino wide open in front of Thompson.
Theodore took a penalty less than two minutes later, giving the Sharks a prime opportunity to make it a one-goal game, but Thompson and the Knights were able to kill it off, bringing the Vegas penalty kill to 3-for-3 on the night.
Thompson was at the center of things until the end, and he made at least four huge saves on point-blank opportunities as the Sharks made a late push. Alex Pietrangelo also made a great defensive play on a late opportunity for San Jose.
Ultimately, a point-blank save by Thompson led to the proverbial icing on the cake for the Golden Knights.
LOGAN THOMPSON— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) February 21, 2022
YOU HAVE WON YOUR FIRST GAME IN THE NHL
The puck found its way to Stephenson in the neutral zone, and he fired it into the empty net to make it 4-1 and seal the win with 33 seconds left.
Vegas’ top line flooded the boxscore, as Eichel, Stephenson and Pacioretty combined for six points and accounted for three of the team’s four goals. Stephenson’s goal was his first since Jan. 20, and Pacioretty has three goals and four points in his last two games after going without a goal in 11 straight.
The Sharks still managed to generate plenty of shot attempts and high-danger chances, but Thompson was up to the task. That being said, the Knights are still missing a level of intensity that they will need to rediscover down the stretch as they take on hungry teams playing their best hockey of the season.
Vegas’ effort was far from perfect, especially when considering the opponent. However, the Knights did what they had to do and got the win, taking advantage of the matchup and securing an important two points to (at least temporarily) stabilize their standing in the Pacific Division.
The red-hot Oilers were in action Sunday evening as well, but their hot streak came to an end in a 7-3 loss to Minnesota; as a result, the Knights now hold a three-point edge over the Oilers and Kings, who both have 59 points with one game in hand. The Knights trail Calgary by two points, though the Flames have three games in hand.
The Knights close out the month with a back-to-back in Arizona on Friday and at home against the Avalanche on Saturday.
By the end of the month, Vegas, Edmonton and Los Angeles all will have played 53 games, while the Flames will have two games in hand.