Golden Knights defeat Lightning 4-3 in last-second thriller
Vegas hands Tampa Bay just their seventh regulation loss of the season and continue their own eight-game point streak.
Shea Theodore tallied four points, including the game-winning goal, as the Vegas Golden Knights knocked off the Tampa Bay Lightning with 2.3 seconds remaining. David Perron also added three points, and Erik Haula got a goal and an assist in the third period. Jonathan Marchessault wasn't half bad either, also with a goal and an assist.
The first star of the game has to go to Theodore, who played his best game in a Knights sweater. He had assists on the first three goals, including the primary on the third, and then blasted the puck into the net with a hair under three seconds left.
Marc-Andre Fleury was also incredible, making 35 saves and allowing only one even-strength goal. That was the lone 5-on-5 goal of the night, as every other score came on the power play. Still, Fleury also made saves like this:
BIG point-blank save by Fleury. pic.twitter.com/9ECXiz8osq— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 20, 2017
Two major turning points were the first Golden Knights’ kill of the night in the third period, and the Lightning's third goal shortly thereafter. It was not enough, however, as the Golden Knights came back to win it in the closing seconds. Thank you, George McPhee, and shout out to Clayton Stoner, for bringing Theodore to Vegas.
The scoring began in the first period, as Brayden McNabb headed to the box for a delay of game. The Lightning would strike about a minute into the power play, on this goal from Steven Stamkos:
All four penalty killers for the Golden Knights are on the other side of the ice from Stamkos. That leaves one of the league's best players all alone, with just Fleury to beat. Not many goaltenders are stopping that, but to the Flower’s credit, he got a piece of it.
The Lightning then followed up on it, with this beauty by Vladislav Namestnikov:
Three of the Vegas penalty killers are in a straight line for a second there, and Deryk Engelland doesn't clear the crease, for fear that the puck might get passed to a net-front Alex Killorn. Still, that play is going to get made and converted on every time by a team as good as the Lightning.
That's how the first period ended, with the Lightning up, 2-0. The Knights had great possession numbers at even strength but were unable to stop the league's best power play, at least in the first 20 minutes.
Then, this happened to get the Knights back in it:
LOOK AT HIM GO pic.twitter.com/ns79kE41hW— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 20, 2017
Theodore to Perron to James Neal, the Real Deal, who now leads the Golden Knights in goals with 17. A gorgeous play on a great man-advantage opportunity.
That goal got the crowd back in it, as Gerard Gallant so eloquently stated, "the crowd got noisy."
Tampa Bay superstar center Stamkos even added after the game when asked about how hard it is to play in Vegas: "The crowd is great. You know, this is a pretty entertaining city to be in for teams. I can't speak for other teams. But it's loud, it's exciting, and I think the number one answer here is they're a good team. There's no question they're very well coached. They have guys that work extremely hard and they have some very good offensive players and they got a great goalie, so they're a great team in this league."
Hey now. That's two great goalies. Let's not forget about Malcolm Subban.
Marchessault would then add another beauty, getting his 12th goal of the season:
#PayTheMan pic.twitter.com/tY2tMOfbf9— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 20, 2017
Marchessault just bounces the puck right off Andrei Vasilevskiy and into the net. Not much the goalie can do about that. Nor was there much he could do about this one:
PERFECT deflection. pic.twitter.com/EUgS5MXSCu— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 20, 2017
Haula, in the most deadly of high-danger areas, deflects a Theodore shot into the net. This should have been the first indication of what was to come.
It wasn't just racking up the points that Theodore excelled at during this game, though. His defense has definitely grown over the course of the season, as plays like this show:
Shea Theodore is figuring out defense. Uh oh. pic.twitter.com/tMsIsdtfZV— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 20, 2017
Twelve minutes after the Golden Knights took their first lead, before another Knights penalty, Victor Hedman evened it up, with Colin Miller doing everything he could to screen Fleury.
Fleuryyyyyy's gonna want to forget about this one. pic.twitter.com/wk0ACIIChS— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 20, 2017
Then, Engelland threw his stick after it got broken. His intentions remain unclear, but it looked like he threw it at an empty area, where the puck followed. He had to throw it somewhere. Luckily, the Knights killed the following penalty.
With time ticking down, the Golden Knights got their own power play. Braydon Coburn went back to the box for holding Neal's stick, and that led to this:
CELLY HARD, SHEA. KNIGHTS WIN IT 4-3. pic.twitter.com/aX9DhRQqQy— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) December 20, 2017
Theodore gets another great chance on the power play and, with no one to deflect it, gets full credit. His shot beat Vasilevskiy low to win the game. His second goal on the year, and yet another gorgeous power play goal for the Knights.
Afterwards, Theodore looked calm, like he planned to keep scoring like this. Let's hope so.
The Golden Knights now stand tied atop the Western Conference with 46 points. They next face the Washington Capitals, as Vegas looks to take their point streak to nine games.
Ryan Quigley contributed to this report.