The Vegas Golden Knights managed to get their 19th win of the season after fending off the red-hot Boston Bruins in a 4-3 shootout effort after giving up a three-goal lead. They now sit six points ahead of the Seattle Kraken for first place in the Western Conference with a record of 19-7-1.
The Bruins have gotten off to an incredible start this season, sitting first in the NHL standings with a 20-3-1 record and putting together a perfect 14-0 record at home coming into this game. The Golden Knights had the best chance to break this streak as they currently have an NHL-best 12-2-1 record on the road, and are now 8-0 against teams in the Atlantic Division this season.
This game also marked the return of head coach Bruce Cassidy to Boston, where he previously coached the Bruins for six seasons before signing with the Golden Knights this past summer. Cassidy’s tenure in Boston was an overwhelming success, coaching the Bruins to a 245-115-46 record and being a huge reason why they have been perennial Stanley Cup contenders over the past decade.
After suffering an apparent leg injury in the game against the Detroit Red Wings, Jack Eichel was back on the ice for the Golden Knights’ Monday morning skate and was listed as questionable heading into this game. Despite not making an appearance in his hometown of Massachusetts, this is a great sign that shows the injury doesn’t seem to be as serious as it could have been.
25-year-old defenseman Daniil Miromanov was called up from the American Hockey League (AHL)’s Henderson Silver Knights in relief of Alex Pietrangelo earlier this week as he continues to miss time due to personal issues. Miromanov currently leads Silver Knights defensemen in scoring with 13 points through 17 games, which gave him the opportunity to slot in on the second power play unit in this game.
Paul Cotter Leads Offense for Golden Knights
Despite being just behind the Bruins in the standings, this was a major test for the Golden Knights to see where they measure up against the league’s best team, and they did so without their number-one offensive player in Eichel. With any injury comes an opportunity for players lower in the depth chart to take on a greater role and make a bigger impact on the game, and Paul Cotter made the most of his opportunity in the most important game of the season.
must be somethin in the watah pic.twitter.com/BKBNjNUlwh— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 6, 2022
Cotter was slotted in on the left wing on the top forward unit alongside Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson, and he excelled with the group for the entire game. Both of his goals came off of plays that made this line look like they played together for years. A lot of this came from his pace of play, which is one of the main assets that make him capable of playing in a higher role. His physicality was on display in this game as well. He was able to overpower defenders on the forecheck with ease and the Bruins were bouncing off of him whenever they attempted to initiate contact on the rush.
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While the Golden Knights will obviously be much better off with Eichel on the top line, Cassidy has become increasingly comfortable with Cotter taking on a larger role with the team, for good reason. Cotter surpassed his career-high in ice time in this game which was previously set on Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings, and led all Golden Knights forwards with 14:58 time on ice (TOI).
Logan Thompson Fights Back
This was a gutsy performance from Logan Thompson. The Golden Knights’ defense has not been playing up to their standards over the past few games and he’s been able to withstand a lot of the pressure. This game was no different.
In his last appearance he faced 47 shots in their 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he had to make another 40 saves in this game. To perform well under that level of shot volume is a lot to ask out of your rookie goaltender, but he’s beginning to show a level of maturity that nobody could have anticipated.
After an overall lack of discipline and structure from the Golden Knights in their own zone, the Bruins managed to score three consecutive goals, but Thompson stood tall and withstood the pressure to take them to overtime and steal a point.
Thompson had to play even better in overtime after Nicolas Roy took a hooking penalty giving the Bruins a powerplay for nearly half of the period, where he made six crucial saves, including an incredible glove stop on Charlie McAvoy on an odd-man rush.
When the shootout came along he was already dialed in, and stopped every Bruins player he faced before Reilly Smith buried the game-winning goal past Jeremy Swayman. Thompson has now stopped 11 of the last 12 players he’s faced in the shootout, where he’s been able to show off his elite ability to anticipate opposing shooters.
It’s not often that you have a lot of positive things to say about a goaltender who has let in seven goals over their last two games, but it’s very evident when watching the Golden Knights play that they would be in a much worse place without Thompson. He’s fought hard through a lot of games and if he keeps up the intensity, he should stay in the running for the Calder Trophy for a long time.
With two of their most impactful players out of the lineup, the Golden Knights managed to squeak by Boston and continue to prove that their depth is among the best in the NHL. It seems like the players deeper in the lineup welcome these moments of opportunity, which will go a long way when each game becomes more meaningful.
While there are still concerns with this team’s ability to play a full 60 minutes after giving up yet another multi-goal lead, they deserve a lot of credit for being able to come into TD Garden and get a win, something that almost half of the entire league hasn’t been able to do this season.
The Golden Knights will head home and be welcomed by the New York Rangers on Tuesday evening before they get some much-needed rest to prepare for their rematch against the Bruins on Sunday at T-Mobile Arena.
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Eric is a recent graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University’s Sport Media Program and is covering the Vegas Golden Knights with the Hockey Writers