The Vegas Golden Knights took care of business in a must-win matchup against the Arizona Coyotes Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Coming off a disappointing 5-1 loss to Vancouver, which snapped Vegas’ five-game winning streak, the Golden Knights got back in the win column with a lopsided 6-1 victory.
Six different players lit the lamp for Vegas, and 12 players recorded at least one point.
The Golden Knights got off to a strong start with Max Pacioretty back in the lineup for the first time since March 11.
He made his presence felt early, but not before Zach Whitecloud opened the scoring at 6:23 of the first period.
He got some help from two-thirds of the Misfit Line, as William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault forced a turnover to set up the play. Whitecloud scored on a high short-side shot from a sharp angle to give Vegas a one-goal lead.
it’s just TWO good ☁️ pic.twitter.com/PXuPY4AOK2— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) April 10, 2022
Pacioretty doubled that lead just 17 seconds later.
It was Pacioretty’s 16th of the season and first since Feb. 20.
Chandler Stephenson sent a soft feed from behind the net, and Pacioretty put it through the pads of Coyotes netminder Karel Vejmelka.
Max Pacioretty gets his 16th goal of the season! pic.twitter.com/GmtHP2LwXS— AT&T SportsNet™ | RM West (@ATTSportsNetRMW) April 10, 2022
Pacioretty was checked on the play but got enough of the puck to put the Knights in the driver’s seat with an early two-goal lead.
However, it was all Arizona for the rest of the first period.
Robin Lehner, who manned the crease for the third straight game, was eventually forced to come up with several big saves, including several on Phil Kessel, but he was unable to keep Barret Hayton off the scoresheet.
Hayton’s eighth of the season, scored on a one-timer off a cross-ice pass from Shayne Gostisbehere, cut the Golden Knights’ lead in half just past the midway point of the period.
What a rip from Barrett Hayton. pic.twitter.com/rZEbnzQdws— Bally Sports Arizona (@BALLYSPORTSAZ) April 10, 2022
However, Lehner kept the puck out of the net despite several close calls, allowing Vegas to carry the lead into the locker room. He finished the game with 29 saves on 30 shots for a .967 save percentage.
The Golden Knights gave themselves such much-needed breathing room less than a minute into the second period.
Evgenii Dadonov collected a stretch pass from Shea Theodore before scoring on a breakaway. He got some assistance from Vejmelka, who bobbled the initial save and knocked the puck into the net with his momentum.
Everything about this goal is GOOD pic.twitter.com/7peQTEzzJN— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) April 10, 2022
It was Dadonov’s 18th of the season as he potted yet another key goal for the Golden Knights, who needed a strong response following a not-so-impressive end to the first period.
Vegas took over the game in the third period, adding three more goals for the 6-1 win.
First, it was McNabb, who scored on a shot from the point to make it 4-1 just 5:24 into the final frame.
The goal was assisted by Stephenson for his second helper of the night. It also marked the first three-point game of McNabb’s career, as he also tallied the secondary assists on both the Pacioretty and Dadonov goals.
Jake Leschyshyn joined the party with his first goal in 23 games and second goal of the season, giving Vegas a four-goal lead at 12:05 of the third.
The shot came from a similar angle as Whitecloud’s and was one Vejmelka likely would want back, but it was one of the few nights of the season in which Vegas actually had a little puck luck.
Jack Eichel scored on a breakaway for good measure, making it a 6-1 game with 2:22 remaining in regulation.
Dadonov forced a turnover at the Vegas blue line and delivered a bank pass to the streaking Eichel, who netted his 11th of the year and his 150th goal in his 400th career game.
The assist was Dadonov’s second point of the night.
It was one of the better team-wide efforts the Golden Knights have gotten in quite some time, though having Pacioretty was a big boost. Plus, the performance came against an opponent well out of playoff contention.
Even so, Vegas has failed on too many occasions to take advantage of similarly favorable matchups, so it was a critical two-point pickup heading into the final nine-game stretch of the regular season.
The Golden Knights now sit tied with Dallas with 84 points, though the Stars have two games in hand, giving them the tiebreaker for the second wildcard seed. The Predators and Kings each have 86 points, though like Dallas, the Predators have two games in hand over Vegas.
The Golden Knights will take on the Canucks for a third time in 10 days on Tuesday as they kick off a three-game road trip against Pacific Division opponents.
It is do-or-die time as the Golden Knights make their final push.