Stellar special teams help Vegas escape with 5-4 victory over Ottawa

Opportunistic power play is key to Golden Knights’ first win on the long road trip.

It has been an unfriendly road trip so far for the Vegas Golden Knights, but they were able to notch their first victory in four games against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday.

With a season-high three power play goals, Vegas was able to find a way around Ottawa’s classic neutral zone trap that so often chokes teams at 5-on-5. Erik Haula’s first of two tallies came a mere three seconds following a man advantage, so one could argue they had four power-play goals. This is an incredible result considering Vegas’ issues with 5-on-4 scoring on the road and Ottawa’s fifth-best penalty kill in the league so far this year.

To Vegas’ credit, their special teams play was not limited to power play time, as they held the potent Ottawa power play (20.75 percent entering Saturday, ninth in the NHL) scoreless and to just two shots.

Haula and Jonathan Marchessault led the team with three points apiece, with Haula registering his first two-goal game since Jan. 21, 2017. Marchessault very nearly had his fourth point, but missed a gimme empty-netter near the end of the contest:

While he was not named one of the three stars of the game — those honors went to Haula, David Perron and Marchessault — William Karlsson looked extraordinary all game long and may have been the team’s most important player. The 24-year-old pivot led Golden Knights forwards with 18 minutes and 43 seconds of ice time and added this nifty wraparound for his fourth goal of the season:

Karlsson was also an integral part of Alex Tuch’s early power play goal, forcing a Johnny Oduya turnover and picking up an assist.

The Vegas Golden Knights now have a dozen players with at least six points this season.

Maxime Lagace earned his first NHL victory despite allowing four goals — all even strength — on 28 shots. This is not to say, however, that he played an out-and-out poor game, as evidence by his acrobatic save against Dion Phaneuf from close range in the first period:

Neither goalie was particularly effective in this game, which was reflected in the 5-4 final score, one that should have been roughly 2.48-2.20 in Vegas’ favor according to expected goals (xG) as found on Corsica.

Despite holding a 5-2 lead at one point, the game was never quite out of reach until the final buzzer, especially considering that Ottawa outshot Vegas by a 40-18 margin in the closing 27 minutes of the game, including a 22-8 mark after the fifth Golden Knights tally.

Vegas did a strong job keeping superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson off the scoresheet until the final 40 seconds of the contest, when the talented Swede potted his first goal of the season on a well-screened wrister. Karlsson led all players with 10 shot attempts.

Regardless of what head coach Gerard Gallant may say, in this game the “fourth line” was the fourth line. The trio of Tomas Nosek, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and William Carrier had a 25% Corsi For and allowed Senator Ryan Dzingel to get an easy slap shot off for Ottawa’s third goal of the afternoon. Below is the team’s 5-on-5 Corsi data for this game:

5v5 Corsi @ OTT


It is important to keep in mind, though, that the Nate Schmidt/Luca Sbisa pairing was again used in a shutdown role, playing the majority of their even-strength time against the frightening Mike Hoffman - Derick Brassard - Mark Stone line.

Although it was a nailbiter at the end, a win is a win. Vegas improves to 9-4-0 and third in the Western Conference.

They will next take the ice on Monday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.