Golden Knights bounce back, ride special teams to emotional 6-4 victory against Minnesota
Chandler Stephenson had a career-high four points; Zach Whitecloud scored twice.
The Vegas Golden Knights finished up their four-game homestand with a dramatic 6-4 win against the Minnesota Wild Sunday night at T-Mobile Arena.
It was quite a turnaround following Friday’s loss to Philadelphia, and it had a little bit of everything.
Most notable was the play of Vegas’ special teams.
After giving up an alarming five power-play goals in the previous two games, the Vegas penalty kill negated five of Minnesota’s six power plays. The lone exception was a goal scored in the final second of the first period.
The Knights also went 2-for-4 on the power play, with one goal ultimately serving as the game-winner.
Zach Whitecloud scored twice, and the top line combined for 10 points.
The line was reunited after Chandler Stephenson missed Friday’s game for personal reasons. Stephenson revealed after the game that he recently lost his grandmother; he said that he believed she was with him tonight.
Tonight was the best game of his career.
He recorded a game-high and career-best four points, all assists. Stephenson continues to lead Vegas in scoring with 26 points in 26 games.
Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty added three points apiece, both extending their point streaks to eight games. The trio played a key role in four of Vegas’ goals.
It was a jam-packed, back-and-forth game from start to finish.
The first period featured four goals, four penalties, two power-play goals and a franchise record, though not a positive one.
Whitecloud gave Vegas an early 1-0 lead just under nine minutes into the game, beating Cam Talbot top-shelf for his fourth of the season.
Zach Whitecloud breaks the ice and opens the score for Vegas after a beautiful pass from Pacioretty set him up!#VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/rNCSkgGIyb— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) December 13, 2021
Whitecloud was the beneficiary of a Stone interception; Stone forced the turnover, and his linemates took care of the rest, ultimately setting up the streaking Whitecloud.
The Wild responded on a delayed penalty five minutes later, as Alex Goligoski beat Robin Lehner to even things up at 1-1.
GOOSE 🤝 GOAL— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) December 13, 2021
A PARTNERSHIP MADE IN MN pic.twitter.com/LDWdbcm3UY
Less than four minutes after that, Evgenii Dadonov did the unthinkable and converted on the power play to make it 2-1 at 17:15 of the first.
Once again, Stone set up the play, this time feeding Dadonov in the low slot for his eighth of the season.
I JUST LIKE TO SMILE. SMILING IS MY FAVORITE 😃 pic.twitter.com/FooULvIJdV— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 13, 2021
Dadonov took a late penalty, however, which ended up being costly.
The Knights were one second away from taking a 2-1 lead into the locker room, but Mats Zuccarello had other plans.
Zuccarello, who leads the Wild in power-play production, got lost in coverage. Brayden McNabb was tied up with Ryan Hartman and facing the net, which allowed Zuccarello to jump on the rebound and beat Lehner for the buzzer-beater.
ZUCCY CASHED IN FOR A BIG PAYOUT BEFORE THE BUZZER pic.twitter.com/1euEFgmfOl— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) December 13, 2021
It was the fourth power-play goal surrendered by Lehner in two games.
The goal came with 0.7 seconds left on the clock and was the latest goal the Knights have given up in a period in franchise history.
Vegas had a chance to regroup at intermission and come out strong for the second period.
That did not happen.
Nick Bjugstad scored just nine seconds into the frame, giving the Wild their second goal in just 10 seconds.
*taps table*— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) December 13, 2021
Bjugstad beat Lehner on a straightforward shot. It was the fifth goal Lehner had given up on his last 18 shots faced, and it seemed to take some of the air out of the building.
But the momentum shifted at the 5:46 mark when Whitecloud got his second of the night, once again beating Talbot with a perfect top-shelf snipe.
Boy, did Zach Whitecloud ever pick that corner. 😨 pic.twitter.com/0S3s95oCkv— NHL (@NHL) December 13, 2021
Dadonov took a hit to make a behind-the-back, between-the-legs pass to set up Whitecloud, who beat Talbot for his fifth of the year.
Pacioretty’s hot streak continued, as he scored on a breakaway later in the period, giving the Knights a 4-3 lead. The play started with another steal by Stone, who sent a one-handed feed to Stephenson, who set up Pacioretty.
SOUR PATCH KID!!! pic.twitter.com/FviAnVSRUP— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 13, 2021
The Wild had an extended 5-on-3 later in the period, but the Vegas penalty kill came through. Immediately after those two penalties expired, Whitecloud was called for slashing. But the determined penalty kill took care of that as well, preserving the 4-3 lead through 40 minutes.
But once again, the Wild scored a quick goal to start the period, as Marcus Foligno got his second in two nights, evening things up at 4-4 just 1:22 into the third.
It was an ugly goal, but the Wild veteran capitalized.
Marcus Foligno ties it up at 4, tapping home the wacky rebound in the crease!#mnwild pic.twitter.com/WxPt2lEUNz— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) December 13, 2021
That was the last goal Minnesota would score, though.
Stone recorded the go-ahead goal just over three minutes later, slamming in a rebound at the side of the net on the power play to give Vegas a 5-4 lead.
SORCERER'S STONE 🪄 pic.twitter.com/ruAWr7cwr7— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 13, 2021
That proved to be the game-winner.
The penalty kill was tested once again, but the Knights prevailed, with Alex Pietrangelo adding an empty-net goal with 28 seconds left to seal the victory.
It was a big win for the Golden Knights.
The penalty kill needed to respond; it did.
The two power-play goals were just a bonus.
Stone was a catalyst at multiple points in the game, forcing the turnover for the opening goal, setting up Dadonov on the power play, starting the play that led to Pacioretty’s breakaway and scoring the game-winner.
But he wasn’t alone.
Stephenson had a career night, Whitecloud scored twice and had a chance at the hat trick on a breakaway, and Pacioretty scored for the sixth game in a row, giving him 10 goals in 10 games this season.
Dadonov had a solid performance as well, scoring on the power play and setting up Whitecloud in the second.
It was not a strong night in net, however, as Lehner gave up four goals on 27 shots for an .852 save percentage. But Vegas fought back every step of the way, even after Minnesota scored several back-breaking goals.
The Knights finished up the homestand with six out of a possible eight points, with two of the wins coming against top teams in the Western Conference (Calgary is in third, Minnesota is in first).
The Knights now hit the road for a four-game stretch, which kicks off in Boston Tuesday night.