Strong third period leads Golden Knights to 5-2 victory over Vancouver

Vegas got two points each from David Perron, Erik Haula, and Jonathan Marchessault.

Need to bounce back? Why not come to Vancouver, where teams can get their groove back?

The Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks met for the first time this season, as the Golden Knights wrapped up a two-game set in Canada.

Maxime Lagace got the start, shaking off an injury and making 19 saves, and David Perron, Erik Haula, and Jonathan Marchessault each had a goal and an assist in the Knights’ 5-2 win.

The game truly began when Perron scored a goal three minutes into the first period. Nate Schmidt drew two defenders, taking up the center lane, allowing Perron to get a shot off, which went in above the right shoulder of Jacob Markstrom.

William Karlsson followed that up with a one-timer off a beautiful play by Alex Tuch to make it 2-0 in favor of the Knights. Again, they targeted the area above Markstrom’s right shoulder, a place the Knights would continue shooting all game.

Those two goals served to punctuate a nearly perfect first period of play. The Golden Knights did almost everything right in the first 20 minutes. Sure, they were out-shot and lost 58 percent of the faceoffs, but there was hardly any damage control needed. The defense was sharp, the passes were crisp, and the penalty kill was very tight, a rarity on the road for Vegas.

However, in the second period, all the positive momentum the Golden Knights had built dissipated, as the Canucks tallied two goals of their own. Brock Boeser (12:31) scored off of an Oscar Lindberg turnover to break Lagace’s shutout and Bo Horvat (17:18) followed him.

Both goals were due in large part to sloppy play in the Knights’ own zone. Lindberg was the culprit for Boeser’s tally, and the second goal came about from general poor play from all five skaters.

Nobody is in position, James Neal can be a lot more aggressive, and Brayden McNabb getting stood up and Haula falling down didn’t help.

The Canucks’ momentum would soon end, however, as the second intermission came about a minute early, following an errant puck that struck a fan.

The final turning point of the game came in the third period, as Neal won a puck battle behind the Vancouver net. He got the puck away from Erik Gudbranson, which eventually led to the Haula goal at 6:27. This would end up being the game-winner.

That was all the momentum the Golden Knights needed, as they would soon score two more goals, by Marchessault (16:55) and Reilly Smith, one minute later (17:58) with the empty net.

The Canucks were left in the cold in the third period thanks to a renewed focus on defense. The penalty kill continued to be excellent, with more shots headed the other way. The trap came out early, at the four-minute mark, but smart tactics allowed for the Knights to pot two goals while still playing a defensively sound game.

This was a huge bounce back session for the team. The youthful contingent of the Knights showed up in a big way against the Canucks, making key plays all over the ice.

Not only did Tuch get the above assist, but he also made a defensive stop during that same shift. Shea Theodore was astounding all night, showing what he’s learned in the NHL, playing a season high 21:04. Brendan Leipsic added an assist, bringing his total to five, in addition to displaying a lot of creativity.

Besides the second period, where both goals being largely outside of his control anyway, Lagace was great as well. It seems the wisest course of action for Vegas is to keep icing the youngsters.

The Golden Knights will next face the budding rival Los Angeles Kings on Sunday. The Knights will try and bring the momentum from this game back home, and perhaps capture the first place position in the Pacific Division.