Golden Knights cruise to 5-1 rout over Hurricanes, take Presidents’ Trophy lead

Three-goal first period sets tone for Vegas victory in Raleigh.

The Vegas Golden Knights throughly dismantled the Carolina Hurricanes, jumping to the top of the Presidents’ Trophy race in the process.

The Golden Knights got to Hurricanes starter Scott Darling early and didn’t let up, with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare potting the opening tally just three minutes into the game.

Colin Miller cashed in on the power play and Jonathan Marchessault followed up just 39 seconds later with a beautiful wrist shot that beat Darling to the top-right corner of the net.

Miller uncorked a blast from the blue line that found its way through traffic and past Darling.

Marchessault collected a pass from William Karlsson at the blue line, spun to his forehand, and ripped a wrister past Darling.

Darling, who had a .625 save percentage after making just five saves on eight shots, drew boos from the restless Carolina crowd.  Hurricanes coach Bill Peters pulled Darling and replaced him with veteran Cam Ward.  Ward steadied the ship for Carolina and posted a respectable 23-for-25 performance the rest of the way, but those first period goals were enough to seal the deal for Vegas.

The Golden Knights vaulted the Tampa Bay Lightning for the top spot in the NHL standings, just three nights after beating the Lightning on their home ice.  Vegas has run roughshod over the Eastern Conference in the past two months, picking up points in every meeting with Eastern teams since a loss to the Canadiens on Nov. 7, a game in which Maxime Lagace was in net.

The Golden Knights will return to Las Vegas for a two-game home stand against Eastern Conference teams — the Columbus Blue Jackets and the New York Islanders — before hitting the road again.

Marc-Andre Fleury played another spectacular game in net, putting up 27 saves and allowing only one goal in the game — a power play score from Jaccob Slavin after a scuffle between Marchessault and Elias Lindholm sent Marchessault to the penalty box for four minutes.  With the win over the Hurricanes, Fleury took sole possession of 14th on the all-time goalie win list, just three wins behind Dominik Hasek.

Additional Golden Knights scoring came from James Neal, who scored on the power play after a Victor Rask penalty for his 21st of the season, and Brendan Leipsic, who tapped in a pass from Miller late in the third period.

The disgruntled fans at PNC Arena let out a sarcastic cheer when the public address announcer signaled the final minute of the game.

Miller had quite a game for himself, racking up three points total.  He broke the Golden Knights’ eight-game scoreless streak on the power play with his first-period goal and collected two assists.  Hapless as the Hurricanes have been this season, the Golden Knights also kept up their momentum with strong performances from Karlsson, Alex Tuch, and David Perron.

Somehow, someway, the Vegas Golden Knights currently have the most points in the NHL.