The Vegas Golden Knights saved their best for last all night on Tuesday. They scored goals in the final minute of both the first and second periods and then took over in the final period to secure a 4-2 win over the Seattle Kraken.
Reilly Smith scored two goals for Vegas – including a rare power-play tally – just 46 seconds apart early in the third period to set up the victory. Eight different players scored at least a point for the Golden Knights in the win.
Here are three takeaways from Tuesday’s victory:
Defensemen Set Tone for Golden Knights
With the likes of Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and William Karlsson in street clothes with injuries, Vegas needs help on offense. Their standout defensemen came through on Tuesday. Alex Pietrangelo scored the first goal of the game for the Golden Knights, and Shea Theodore assisted on a pair of massive goals – one late in the second and another early in the third.
Theodore’s rip from the point set up a deflection by Smith to give Vegas its first lead of the game just 30 seconds into the third period. Theodore also assisted on Evgenii Dadonov’s equalizer late in the second period. Vegas looked like it would trail going into the final period when Yanni Gourde smacked in a one-timer with 31 seconds left in the second stanza. But Dadonov provided some more late heroics in the second period, banging in a loose puck for his third goal of the season. That tied the game at 2-2, setting up Smith’s go-ahead score at the start of the third.
Pietrangelo’s goal kept things even through the first period, as he snapped a puck through traffic and off Seattle goaltender Chris Driedger’s glove with just 26 seconds left before the first intermission. After Smith gave them the lead early in the third, Pietrangelo helped set up Smith’s second goal just 46 seconds later. The two goals in 1:16 set up the victory, as Seattle couldn’t solve Vegas the rest of the way. Vegas’ six defensemen also combined to block 11 shots in the win.
Lehner Keeps Vegas In It
This week, almost all of the talk was about Jack Eichel getting traded to Vegas by the Buffalo Sabres. But it was another former Sabre that boosted Vegas to victory on Tuesday. Goaltender Robin Lehner – who spent three seasons with the Sabres – made 25 saves in the victory, including 18 over the final two periods. It was his third consecutive victory.
Lehner made a ridiculous save with 4:48 to go in the second period. He made the initial stop on a wrister from Seattle’s Morgan Geekie, but the puck was still loose and looked like it might trickle across the goal line. But Lehner – who dropped to his stomach after sprawling to make the stop – swept his legs together, closing off the puck and keeping the game tied at 1-1.
That save proved to be enormous with the later flurry of goals for both teams. It left the game tied into the final 20 minutes, making Smith’s outburst even more important. Lehner has won five of his last six starts
Golden Knights’ Special Teams Still an Enigma
It was a case of good news/bad news for Vegas on special teams on Tuesday. That’s not the worst thing in the world since this season has been mostly bad news for the Golden Knights in those situations. The good news was that Vegas notched its third power-play goal – and first at home – of the season. The bad news was they allowed a power-play goal to Seattle. Entering Tuesday’s contest, the Kraken (7.9%) were the only team in the NHL that were worse on the power play than Vegas (8.3%).
Smith’s power-play goal with the man advantage was a big one, as it gave them a two-goal cushion with the bulk of the final period to play. That was a big change from trailing 2-1 with 31 seconds left in the second period.
The first goal of the game was just the fourth power-play goal of the season for the Kraken. They hadn’t scored in their previous 23 power-play attempts before Jordan Eberle’s tally early in the first – which gave the forward seven goals in his last seven games. But Vegas bounced back, holding the Kraken to 1-for-4 on the power play in the game.
After a rocky start, Vegas has won six of its last eight. Tuesday’s tilt was the start of a six-game homestand for the Golden Knights, which hose the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
Lifelong storyteller and experienced hockey reporter that has covered everything from major juniors to the NHL. Worked for various newspapers across Minnesota and North Dakota, and now covering the Colorado Avalanche for THW.