The Vegas Golden Knights did what they had to do against the San Jose Sharks Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena, taking home a critical two points with a 3-1 win, the team’s 11th straight victory against San Jose.
It also marks the 500th win of Pete DeBoer’s coaching career, a milestone shared with just 27 other coaches in NHL history.
Robin Lehner was back in the crease and earned his 20th win of the year, though he faced just 17 shots as the Knights controlled play all night.
The Misfit Line led the way with two full-line goals to help the Knights secure the win.
The Golden Knights opened the scoring just 2:16 into the game when the fourth line converted on a 2-on-1 opportunity resulting from a poor pinch by San Jose defender Jacob Middleton.
Brett Howden sent a gorgeous saucer feed to Keegan Kolesar for the one-timer, which beat James Reimer to give Vegas an early 1-0 lead.
Brett Howden didn't have to be this saucy pic.twitter.com/qqg1unz7VD— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) March 2, 2022
But Reimer kept his team in the game for the rest of the frame, shutting down at least four prime scoring chances for the Knights, including a Jonathan Marchessault breakaway and a point-blank shot from Zach Whitecloud at the side of the net.
The Knights had extended zone time earlier in the frame but were too focused on looking for the perfect play rather than getting pucks to the net. Even so, they led 11-4 in shots in the first 20 minutes.
San Jose went nine minutes between shots but came close to evening things up in the final minute of the frame. However, Ryan Dzingel fanned on the shot in front of an empty net; Chandler Stephenson had a great chance at the other end of the ice but was stonewalled by Reimer, who kept it a one-goal game despite the tilted ice.
It was a strong start but another example of Vegas failing to capitalize on opportunities.
Due to a lower-body injury, Reimer did not return for the second period, which put Zachary Sawchenko in the crease against a desperate Vegas team.
The Sharks helped him out early with a goal just 1:53 into the period.
Nick Bonino, the only Shark to score against Vegas in the Feb. 20 meeting, fanned on the initial shot attempt, and the puck found its way to the stick of the wide-open Noah Gregor, who slammed it into the backdoor.
It was Gregor’s third of the season and seemed to take some of the wind out of Vegas’ sails.
But the strong play by the Misfit Line eventually paid off when Reilly Smith scored to make it 2-1 with just over six minutes left in the middle frame.
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood pic.twitter.com/jUU3O2Lehp— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) March 2, 2022
It was a full-line goal, with William Karlsson setting up the play from the neutral zone and Marchessault making the soft pass over to Smith, who beat Sawchenko top-shelf.
Jack Eichel came to close to making it 3-1 but hit iron as the Knights finished the period strong. It was a much better period for the top line, which held an 8-0 edge in Corsi after trailing 7-3 in the opening frame.
Even so, the Knights entered a critical third period with just a one-goal lead after holding San Jose to 10 shots in 40 minutes of action, the second-lowest total through two periods this season.
But less than five minutes into the third, the Misfit Line came through once again.
Smith, Marchessault and Karlsson teamed up for their second full-line goal of the game, giving the Knights a two-goal lead 4:45 into the period.
It was another pretty passing play; Marchessault drew the defense to the blue line and fed the puck to Karlsson, who sent a perfect touch pass to Smith for the tap-in goal.
It was Smith’s second of the game and 16th of the season, and it was a huge goal for a Knights team coming off a blown 2-1 third-period lead.
It proved to be enough as the Golden Knights held on for the 3-1 win.
The Knights outshot San Jose 31-17 and maintained a 61.37 percent Corsi share on the night.
It was an outstanding performance by the Misfit Line, which finished with a 12-5 edge in Corsi, a 10-2 lead in shots and scoring chances, an 81.29 percent expected goal share, a 2-0 edge in actual goals and a 6-2 edge in high-danger Corsi in 9:45 of 5-on-5 action.
Even though Vegas controlled play all night, it still wasn’t a perfect effort by the Knights, who once again struggled to capitalize on early chances.
But at the end of the day, the Knights had long stretches of dominant play, held the Sharks to just 17 shots, scored when they needed to (once in each period), never trailed and came away with the all-important two points.
The win helps the Knights make up ground on the second-place Kings, who lost 7-0 to Boston on Monday. Vegas now trails Los Angeles by just one point in the Pacific Division standings; the Knights sit one point ahead of the Oilers as the division race remains tight.
The Knights will look to fare better than Los Angeles when they take on the Bruins this Thursday; it will be the first half of a back-to-back that will wrap up Friday in Anaheim.