Golden Knights 5, Ducks 2: Vegas scores three in third period in season-opening win

The Knights got some third-period heroics from their newly-appointed captain.

The Vegas Golden Knights took the ice for their first game in the 2020-21 regular season and secured a 5-2 victory against the visiting Anaheim Ducks.

Mark Stone, serving in his first game as the Golden Knights’ captain, scored two points in the third period, including the game-winning goal. Alex Pietrangelo also got his first point in his debut, and five different Golden Knights scored their first of the year.

Jonathan Marchessault jump-started the game with a goal just 1:08 into the game, the fastest goal in season opener in Golden Knights history:

A little over a minute later (65 seconds, to be exact), Tomas Nosek tapped in a pass from Ryan Reaves to make it a 2-0 game.

It was an incredible pass by Reaves as he went between the legs to set up Nosek for a very easy goal.

But the Ducks would answer with two goals from Maxime Comtois before the period was up.

It was clear in the second period that the Golden Knights had gone without a preseason. They didn’t register a shot on goal until 7:25 into the period and even then only got two real chances, one from Max Pacioretty and one from Shea Theodore. Both were saved by John Gibson.

The Knights played some sloppy hockey throughout this game, including giving the puck away nine times to just one giveaway from Anaheim. Given the circumstances of an incredibly shortened preseason and not having played competitive hockey since September, it’s easier to let go with the score. It will be something that needs to improve, however.

The Golden Knights’ penalty kill also got off to a good start on the season in the second period, successfully killing off Brayden McNabb’s penalty.

The third period became the “Captain Stone” period, as he scored a goal and set up linemate Pacioretty for another tally, giving Vegas a more comfortable 4-2 lead.

On Stone’s goal, his first as captain, Chandler Stephenson did the hard work, getting the puck after a Pietrangelo misfire, protecting it behind the net and feeding it to Stone on the doorstep:

The goal came just 49 seconds into the third period and was a huge momentum shift. The Knights enjoyed their very quick goals in this contest.

Then Stone set up Pacioretty while driving — well, more like diving — to the net:

Stone would have drawn a penalty on the play but Pacioretty’s goal nullified the need for one.

Alex Tuch would get his first goal of the season with the net empty and 14 seconds left.

In just his fourth regular-season start with Vegas, Robin Lehner made 19 saves on 21 shots for the win. Both goals against came from the high-danger area. He remains undefeated in the regular season with the Knights.

Vegas played this one with 13 forwards and just five defensemen. That was a bold strategy for the first game of the season, and it’ll be interesting to see how long Vegas rolls with it after this game.

Especially as McNabb and Keegan Kolesar, serving as the extra forward and playing just his second NHL game, were on ice for both of Comtois’ goals. McNabb also took a penalty in the middle frame, and a rough night for McNabb with five defensemen is a lot more difficult to support than with six.

Kolesar played just 4:36 in this game. Each defenseman played 22 minutes or more, with Theodore bringing up the rear at 22:04. That’s an interesting mark as Theodore had a noticeable and positive impact throughout the contest.

Theodore was tied for the best shot share (66.67 percent) on the blue line with Zach Whitecloud, and he had the best expected goal share (71.42 percent) among Knights defensemen at 5-on-5.

Pietrangelo finished his first game as a Golden Knight with an assist, a plus-two rating, two shots and three blocks in 25:30.

Three of Vegas’ four forward lines scored in this contest, with the fourth being the youngest unit of Tuch, Cody Glass and Nicolas Roy. It may take some time for those three to gel, but a 57.14 percent shot share is not a bad start to the season (although a 44.6 expected goal share is less ideal).

These two teams will square off once again on Saturday night in the strangely quiet T-Mobile Arena.