Golden Knights defeat Coyotes 5-2, make history in emotional home opener
What. A. Night.
The NHL regular season may still be young, but the Vegas Golden Knights’ hot start to the season is nothing short of miraculous. After a furious third period comeback win over the Dallas Stars (thanks for that, by the way, James Neal), the Golden Knights once again shocked the hockey world by winning their second game in an overtime thriller over the Arizona Coyotes.
Tuesday night, the Golden Knights took on that same Coyotes team. This contest, though, had a bit of a different feel to it. For the first time in Golden Knights history, the team played in front of its own fans in the T-Mobile Arena. The players were given a gold carpet introduction and, appropriately so, were treated as celebrities as they entered their new home.
But more importantly, the home opener took place just over a week since the horrific tragedy that occurred at the Route 91 Harvest festival. Prior to the game, the Golden Knights honored the 58 individuals who lost their lives at the country music festival, as well as the first responders, in a goosebump-inducing ceremony that had the hashtage “#VegasStrong” littered across the entire arena.
From the very get-go, it was made totally apparent that this game was not about the Golden Knights. It was about Las Vegas and its community, which has been crippled since the worst mass shooting in United States history. Long-time Vegas resident Deryk Engelland gave a heartfelt monologue in front of the sold out arena that put some to tears.
But something strange happened after the tear-jerking opening ceremony. The mood in the arena went from mournful to downright rabid in a matter of seconds. The fans were ready for some hockey.
And, by God, so were the Golden Knights.
Vegas came out fast and furious and wasted no time getting on the board. Tomas Nosek tallied his first goal of the season off a nice feed from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to give the Knights the lead just two and a half minutes in.
Just over a minute later, Mr. Las Vegas himself gave the Knights a two-goal lead with a laser from the point.
With the two-goal lead, Vegas didn’t take their foot off the gas. Less than a minute after Engelland’s goal, James Neal scored his fourth of the season. Absolute dominance.
Following Neal’s tally, the Coyotes pulled Antti Raanta and replaced him with Louis Domingue. Unfortunately for Arizona, though, nothing changed once Domingue took over in the cage.
Neal (who else?) scored his second goal of the night just four minutes after Domingue entered the game. But it wasn’t just any ordinary goal. It was the first power play goal in Golden Knights history!
The Knights were sitting pretty with a 4-0 lead, but Arizona did manage to get one past Marc-Andre Fleury after an impressive deflection from Tobias Rieder.
Vegas went into the first intermission ahead 4-1 with a 9-7 lead in shots on goal. While the Golden Knights began the first period ferociously, Arizona did manage to gain a bit of momentum towards the end of the first 20 minutes.
But it didn’t take long for Vegas to put that to a halt in the middle period.
Vegas once again dominated the Coyotes in the second period. Though it took a little longer for things to get going, the Golden Knights did end up increasing their lead by one after a gorgeous snipe from Oscar Lindberg in the final minutes of the period. Even more gorgeous than Lindberg’s shot, however, was the pass he received from Brendan Leipsic to set up the goal.
Let’s give that pass another look.
Oh, that’s the stuff.
The final period was the most evenly played third of the night. While Vegas certainly didn’t look overwhelmed, the Coyotes had a little extra pep in their step as they looked to create something positive to take away from the route.
They’d end up getting that with just under six minutes remaining. Kevin Connauton got one past Fleury after a nifty pass from down low. The puck looked to have been redirected while traveling towards the net.
In the end, that goal didn’t change the outcome of the contest. The Knights would walk away with a 5-2 win over their division rivals to improve their record to 3-0-0, which is the best starting record ever set by an NHL expansion team in its inaugural season.
What an incredible night. Not just for the Golden Knights, but for the entire city of Las Vegas. In a time when it was needed most, the Knights were able to give the town’s residents a little something to smile about. Even if it was just for a few hours.