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Next challenge for Golden Knights after win over Coyotes? Consistency

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With Vegas gaining another impressive victory, the task remains getting a winning streak together.

Arizona Coyotes v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

We’ve seen this from the Vegas Golden Knights before. Actually, it’s been a month-long occurrence.

Just when we think the Golden Knights have turned the corner, winning consecutive games in impressive fashion, they’ve folded when in need of a response.

The Golden Knights got their second consecutive victory on Friday, 2-1 in a shootout against the Arizona Coyotes that saw Malcolm Subban outduel potential Vezina finalist Darcy Kuemper. Subban made 35 saves for his second win of the season after losing his first six starts (0-4-2).

This performance came 48 hours after Vegas somehow defeated the Nashville Predators 4-3 on Wednesday, which wouldn’t have happened without Max Pacioretty scoring the tying goal with 0.3 seconds remaining. It was the Golden Knights’ first overtime victory since Jan. 12. This is being labeled as the shot in the arm the Golden Knights needed to string some consistency together.

It was also supposed to be a shot in the arm when Marc-Andre Fleury turned into Superman for less than a second and made the save heard ‘round the world against the Toronto Maple Leafs. After winning 4-2 against Toronto on Nov. 19 (following a 6-0 win against the Calgary Flames), Vegas lost 2-1 in overtime to the San Jose Sharks, then consecutive 4-2 losses to the Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars.

You can trace this back to the beginning of the season.

  • Losses to Boston and Arizona following two wins against Sharks.
  • 5-2 loss to Nashville Predators following back-to-back wins over Kings and Flames.
  • 6-2 loss to Philadelphia Flyers following wins against Penguins and Senators.
  • Four straight regulation losses following five-game point streak.

Now, the Golden Knights go on the road for a New York/New Jersey stint; three games in four days, starting Monday against the New York Rangers, the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday and New York Islanders on Thursday.

“That’s two in a row. It’s big, but going forward we just have to worry about the next game. We can’t look too far ahead,” said forward Alex Tuch, who scored Vegas’ lone goal in regulation and the shootout winner on Friday. “We can’t worry about who we’re playing three, four games from now.

“We have a big road trip in New York; the Rangers, they’re playing well right now. They have a good team right now, and we have to take it to them, especially at Madison Square Garden, they’re going to come out firing, and we’ve got to match it. And then we’ll worry about New Jersey and we’ll worry about the Islanders.”

Yet despite that inconsistency, the Golden Knights still find themselves in the thick of the Pacific Division. With the win on Friday, Vegas moved to third place in the division; four points behind the Coyotes and five behind the Oilers.

“Just one game at a time,” said forward Max Pacioretty following Vegas’ 5-2 victory against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 27. “Now we just worry about the next game. We’ve got to worry about coming out with the same intensity that we did tonight.”

The Golden Knights lost that following game, 5-4 in overtime against Pacioretty’s former team, the Montreal Canadiens. Vegas had a two-goal lead in that game, then had a two-goal lead two days later in a 4-3 loss at home to the Winnipeg Jets. If it’s been one step forward, the result has been seven steps back.

Take the four-game losing streak from Nov. 9-16. It starts with getting shellshocked by the Washington Capitals, followed with a demoralizing 3-2 loss against the Detroit Red Wings. The Golden Knights responded with a 5-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at home, and a 4-3 loss at the Los Angeles Kings. Those last three shouldn’t have been losses.

“I think it’s just getting prepared one game at a time,” coach Gerard Gallant said when the team returned from Detroit on Nov. 12. “[The Washington and Detroit games] were back-to-back, there’s a lot of travel, but every team does that. We just have to be more focused and more prepared to play and play better hockey. Bottom line.”

For what it’s worth, this 4-2-1 stretch the Golden Knights are on in their past seven games might be their best this season. Even if they win two of their next three on the east-coast swing, it’ll still be the best string of hockey Vegas will have played. Especially with Fleury out (personal leave) for the foreseeable future, Subban is going to get more reps in the coming days. Until the Golden Knights can be more than two-game wonders, each win needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

But at least they’re not out of things, yet.

“I think we played a real good game,” Gallant said Friday. “It was a solid game by two teams. I was happy with our team. It’s not about trying to get five or six goals every game, it’s about trying to win right now. I think the last couple of games are a real good step forward. We’ll go back to New York tonight and have three battles down there. Every game is going to be a battle. We’ve got to get prepared to play every night.