Year 2, Game 7: Special teams and goaltending lead the way as Vegas wins 4-1 over Buffalo
The Golden Knights finally looked like themselves, and it paid dividends in the team’s 4-1 victory over the Sabres.
The Golden Knights entered play against the Buffalo Sabres still looking for their first stretch of back-to-back wins on the season. A far cry from the nearly flawless start to their 2017-18 season.
Adding to the early season woes, as the team announced yesterday, they were without key free agent Paul Stastny, who could miss up to two months with a lower-body injury. Which is in addition to Deryk Engelland, who did not play in this one, and Alex Tuch, who is still week-to-week with a lower-body injury.
From Coach Gallant:— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) October 15, 2018
-Tuch is getting closer to a return 👍
-Pacioretty had a maintenance day today 🔧
-Engelland is day-to-day 🌞🌚🌞
-Stastny will be out for a bit, potentially up to two months 😳
Onto the game.
The Return of Relentless Pressure?
For perhaps the first time this season, if not then definitely one of the very few times, the Golden Knights looked like... well, the Golden Knights.
As a result the Golden Knights enjoyed a few other firsts.
They left the first period with a lead for the first time this season, for example. They scored their first power-play goal of the year (we’ll get to that). They scored more than two goals for the first time. William Karlsson scored his first goal of the season. And, as the final horn sounded, the Golden Knights had won back-to-back games for the first time.
And it was Shea Theodore, who was apparently channelling his inner Bobby Orr, that would get the Golden Knights on the board with an incredible rush for his first of the year. A much-needed goal for a player who was the golden boy (heh, puns) last season but has since seen some criticism following signing...
...What was that? It was ruled offside after review and the goal was waived off?
Well, that’s inconvenient.
Or not. Buffalo challenges the goal and the officials declare it offside. We remain scoreless. pic.twitter.com/z19Vo6Tud5— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) October 17, 2018
Jokes aside, it was Jonathan Marchessault that would put the Golden Knights ahead with that aforementioned first power play marker of the season with just 1:01 remaining in the period.
GOAL. It took them 17 tries, but the Knights finally converted on the power play. It's Marchessault. pic.twitter.com/7VveRxjAQJ— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) October 17, 2018
In all, Vegas dominated the shot clock (12-5) and possession (19-7 in Corsi For) in the first period. An advantage they would at one point push to 17-9 before falling a bit back down to earth (though still finished up 29-27). Still, for about 22 minutes the Golden Knights reminded us of the team that took the league by storm last season.
Special Teams Comes to Life
Earlier I mentioned that the Golden Knights scored their first power play goal of the season in the first period. It wasn’t their only special teams goal, however.
Just over two minutes into the second period Cody Eakin, a noted sniper, scored his third goal in four games and did so while on the penalty kill. This was the team’s second goal shorthanded this season.
GOAL. Cody Eakin scores shorthanded to give Vegas the two-goal lead. pic.twitter.com/3hM7NkO6CK— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) October 17, 2018
They also found time amidst all the scoring to lock down on the penalty kill, successfully killing off the all six Sabre power plays. This, in a nutshell, is what won the Golden Knights the game.
And a big part of that...
The man they call Flower
No, he wasn’t in his beautiful new golden pads, but he was stellar for the Knights in this one.
It would be fair to say the season hasn’t been great for Marc-Andre Fleury so far. His save percentage entering the game was .880, after all. But when the Golden Knights needed him most, he was there, as steadfast as ever. He was a big part of how the Golden Knights shut down the young, talented Buffalo Sabre offensive attack for much of the night including on those six power plays.
He didn’t keep the shutout, unfortunately. A late goal with under 40 seconds to play saw to that. But Fleury finished the night having made 26 saves in the 4-1 victory and has given the Golden Knights a chance to get back to .500.
An opportunity they will not receive until Satuday, Oct. 20 against the Anaheim Ducks at T-Mobile Arena.