Golden Knights 3, Hurricanes 0: 5 things we learned from a refreshing shutout victory over a formidable opponent
This was exactly the game Vegas needed.
After losing two straight games on their brief road trip through the midwest, the Vegas Golden Knights rebounded in a big way Saturday night against a quality Carolina Hurricanes squad.
Despite being outshot 34-25, the Knights managed to make the most of their opportunities and score three times from a trio of unlikely sources. Defenseman Brad Hunt and forward William Carrier both scored their first goals of the season while Ryan Reaves, who has been playing like anything but a typical fourth-liner, scored his fourth of the season to eventually lead Vegas to an encouraging 3-0 shutout victory.
With this win, fans not only got free donuts as a token of the Knights’ effort, but goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury also picked up the 50th shutout of his career, tying former Detroit Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood for 28th on the all-time list.
Brad Hunt is certainly making a strong case to be more of a regular fixture on Vegas’ third defensive pairing. After being a healthy scratch for most of the start of the season, Hunt has quickly made his presence felt on the blue line, helping Vegas score its first power-play goal of the season and, of course, scoring the game-winning goal Saturday night.
Hunt has also been a major benefactor as a play-driver. Right now, Hunt leads the Golden Knights with a very high Corsi For percentage of 70.10 at 5-on-5 play. Granted, the sample size is small as Hunt has only played in five games, but the underlying numbers are encouraging nonetheless.
While Hunt has made some positive contributions offensively, though, it was a defensive play that particularly stood out against the Hurricanes.
With electric Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho looking to make a play in the offensive zone, Hunt vigorously pursued the young star and forced him to make a turnover before dumping the puck into the neutral zone. It’s not the kind of play that’ll be shown on highlights, but it’s the kind of play coaches adore.
It was a very good overall performance from Hunt against Carolina, and it should benefit him down the road when Nate Schmidt’s return forces a demotion of one of Vegas’ bottom-pair defensemen.
Reaves continues scoring surge
No one on the Golden Knights’ roster is playing better than Ryan Reaves right now. Reaves, 31, has never scored more than seven goals in a single campaign, but is on pace to score over 20 (twenty!) goals this season. Reaves’ goal against Carolina not only marked his fourth of the season, but also gave Vegas a nice precautionary cushion against one of the Eastern Conference’s better teams.
Now earning additional ice time both on the power play and at 5-on-5, it’s become evident that head coach Gerard Gallant thinks quite highly of Reaves. And it’s hard to blame him.
“I don’t think I ever showed two minutes of my career on the power play, and now I’m playing regular shifts with some guys banged up,” said Reaves. “I’m playing in all situations, and Turk trusts me a lot, trusts our line to go out there and do our job. It’s a boost in my confidence for sure.”
Fleury reaches milestone
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has fulfilled numerous major accomplishments any NHL netminder can only hope for. He’s won three Stanley Cups, has been named to three All-Star Games and has routinely carried his teams deep into the postseason.
Saturday night, Fleury reached yet another milestone, logging the 50th shutout of his storied career. Despite Carolina firing 34 shots in Fleury’s direction, the 33-year-old (who turns 34 later this month) was totally locked in and earned all fans in attendance some free doughnuts for their Sunday morning.
“It felt like it took me a while to get there, but it’s nice to round it up,” said Fleury. “It’s always nice to get those wins and those shutouts because of how the team plays. Again, tonight was a great one for our team. Got a couple goals and got a shutout, so it’s a good feeling. But we need to keep going.”
Haula getting hot
After failing to register a point in seven of Vegas’ first eight games of the season, Erik Haula has now posted six points (one goal, five assists) in his last six games. Haula was particularly impressive Saturday night, picking up a pair of helpers on both of Vegas’ first two goals. His assist on Brad Hunt’s game-winner was especially pretty, as he hit the 30-year-old defenseman with a quick feed from behind the net.
It wasn’t an ideal start to the season for a player coming off a 29-goal, 55-point campaign, but Haula seems to be getting back into the swing of things as of late. Through 14 games, Haula leads all Golden Knights players with at least 100 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time with an excellent 62.30 Corsi For percentage, so it shouldn’t be all that surprising that the 27-year-old is finally starting to get on the scoresheet.
Penalty kill solid as power play continues to struggle
For the second time in their last three games, the Golden Knights played a full 60 minutes without allowing a power-play goal. Vegas now ranks 10th in the NHL in penalty kill efficiency with a 82.1 success rate.
The power play, on the other hand, is a completely different story.
Out of 48 opportunities on the man advantage, Vegas has managed just six power-play goals. The Knights’ power play percentage (12.5) ranks fourth-worst in the league, ahead of only the Hurricanes, Predators and Blue Jackets.
Luckily, it appears help is on the way for Vegas’ power play. Max Pacioretty, who has missed the Knights’ last four games after taking a hit up high from Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn, is joining the team on its four-game eastern road trip. Pacioretty will undoubtedly provide Vegas a boost on the power play when he returns. And if all goes according to plan, we could see Pacioretty take on his former team, the Montreal Canadiens, on Nov. 10.