Golden Knights flip script in first period against Coyotes

After a rough go in St. Louis, Vegas used a dominant opening frame en route to a win against Arizona.

The Golden Knights were clamoring for a better start on Friday against a suddenly good Arizona Coyotes team.

They got that and then some.

A four-goal blitz in a 5:41 stretch in the first period set the tone for the Golden Knights in a 7-4 win against Arizona. The goals included, but were not limited to, a power-play goal, a fourth-line goal, a Keegan Kolesar goal, and a shorthanded goal.

“It won the game for us,” said Reilly Smith, the one responsible for said shorthanded tally. “The first four, five shifts, we generated 10-15 shots and a couple goals, and I think that changed the game.”

The ledger looks good, for now, for the Golden Knights. They’ve won two of three after losing three in a row, which is code for ‘they’re still struggling and need to string some wins together.’

The first period in particular has been a problem for Vegas, particularly the recent trip to St. Louis against the Blues. The Golden Knights won 6-1 on Monday, but St. Louis generated 14 scoring chances in the first and three high-danger looks. If not for goals from Tomas Nosek and Alec Martinez in the opening frame, the game could’ve swung differently.

Wednesday was a different story. St. Louis jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead, and while the Golden Knights got 51 shots on Jordan Binnington, the Blues’ goalie stopped all but one.

Returning home against an Arizona team that suddenly found itself in fourth place in the West Division, the Golden Knights put up 22 shots in the first period. That was despite not having a shot in the final 6:49 of the frame.

“We talked about it and it had been an issue the last couple games,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “I thought the guys fixed it.”

Jonathan Marchessault scored a power-play goal 3:03 into the game to give the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead. Not only did it provide the spark for the onslaught that was coming, but it ended an 0-for-18 slide that dated back the past seven games.

The Vegas power play, at a 17.5 percent clip, is 25th in the league.

“Our power play has not been necessarily good enough,” Marchessault said. “We’ve not been clicking with it. We need to be a force. There’s no excuse for that group to not have a successful power play. It was a good first goal, and we can get confidence from that.”

After not scoring the first 23 games, William Carrier scored his fourth goal in his past 12 at 4:41 while cleaning up a third-chance rebound. Keegan Kolesar made it 3-0 at 6:59 when he picked Ilya Lyubushkin in front of the Arizona crease and scored stick side.

Reilly Smith made it 4-0 with his first of two on the night, scoring shorthanded on a 2-on-0 with William Karlsson 19 seconds into an Arizona power play.

“We were really good in the first period,” Marchessault said. “We’ve got to be able to close out games easier than that, and we’ve got to be aware to play a full 60 minutes.”

The Golden Knights jumped out to a 5-0 lead when Chandler Stephenson scored four minutes into the second period. And even though Arizona answered with three unanswered goals and cut the lead to 5-3 early in the third, the first eight minutes was good enough for Vegas to get a much-needed win.

The second game of this set is Sunday at 1 p.m., which has all the makings of a trap game with an expected push from Arizona. The Coyotes cling to a one-point lead on St. Louis for fourth place, while the Golden Knights remain four back of Colorado with a game in hand.

“You’re disappointed because you don’t walk out feeling how you should,” DeBoer said. “You should walk out feeling great about that game. The teams we’re playing have a lot of pride, too. That’s a good club over there. We should’ve known they were going to be pushing toward the end. We got away with it.”