After two consecutive losses at home, the Vegas Golden Knights got back in the win column Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 3-2 shootout win on the road, improving to 17-6-1 to start the 2022-23 season and placing them first in the Western Conference.
This was the 10th win on the road for the Golden Knights this season, bringing their record away from home to an NHL-best 10-1-1. They have surprisingly struggled against the Blue Jackets in the past, entering this game with a 3-5-0 record all-time, and having won just one game in Columbus which came back in November of 2019.
There were some major individual milestones for Golden Knights players in this game, with Brayden McNabb playing in his 600th career NHL game, Mark Stone playing in his 200th as a Golden Knight, and William Carrier playing in his 300th as a Golden Knight. It was also announced earlier on Monday afternoon that Alex Pietrangelo, who leads Golden Knights players in ice time and defensemen in scoring, would be absent from this game due to personal reasons. Head coach Bruce Cassidy did not indicate a timeline for his return to the lineup.
Golden Knights’ Goaltending Bounces Back
After two tough losses at home where the Golden Knights allowed nine goals, nobody needed to bounce back more than the goaltenders, and Logan Thompson did just that last night. In his previous three appearances, he gave up 10 goals, while Adin Hill gave up eight in his last two. In this game, Thompson had a much better defensive team in front of him and was still able to stand out on his own, making a number of important saves down the stretch, and remaining composed in the shootout to earn the win.
The Golden Knights are now 4-1 when the game goes past regulation time, and a lot of that record would not be possible without the confidence that Thompson is playing with. He still remains one of the top candidates for the Calder Trophy this season, and gutsy performances like this prove why he deserves to be in that conversation.
These next few games could be a defining moment for the goaltending future of the Golden Knights this season, with Laurent Brossoit continuing his conditioning stint in the American Hockey League (AHL) and potentially competing for a spot in the crease in the coming weeks.
Golden Knights’ Penalty Kill Comes up Big
The Golden Knights’ penalty kill gave up three goals against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, and their defensive structure seemed to break down completely. In this game, everything seemed to go back to normal.
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The strategy behind the penalty kill in this game seemed to be heavily focused on pushing the puck carrier low into the zone and away from the net. This was done effectively by having one of the forwards stand between the defensemen along the blue line, minimizing any passing opportunities through the middle of the ice, and keeping the cycle as far away from the net as possible. This led to some offensive opportunities as well, with Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson almost converting on an odd-man rush after picking off a pass and putting the Blue Jackets on their heels.
Later in the second period, Jack Eichel was also able to pounce on a loose puck after a cross-ice pass was deflected on the penalty kill, which allowed him to spring past both Johnny Gaudreau and Yegor Chinakov to give himself a dangerous chance before being slashed by Chinakov, which took away Columbus’ man-advantage. They played with a lot more urgency on these penalty kills than we’ve seen in the past, and it proved to be a huge difference-maker in killing any offensive chances that the Blue Jackets were trying to put together on the power play.
Golden Knights’ Offensive Depth
The top forward unit of Eichel, Stone, and Chandler Stephenson was not performing at their best in this game, which allowed for the other three lines to lead the charge offensively. The ‘Misfits’ line of Marchessault, Karlsson and Reilly Smith opened the scoring late in the first period after Karlsson swiped at a loose puck from his knees that trickled past Blue Jackets goaltender Daniil Tarasov.
Carrier also scored his eighth goal of the season, one short of his career high, to give the Golden Knights a 2-0 lead in the late stages of the first period. He currently sits fourth on the team in goals behind only Stone, Smith, and Eichel.
Carrier was even moved up to the first line alongside Stone and Stephenson when Eichel left the game after taking a puck to the face early in the third period. His physicality and recent scoring touch make him a valuable player whose assets can benefit the team wherever he plays in the lineup. To cap it all off, after six rounds in the shootout, it was rookie winger Paul Cotter who sealed the deal with a sweet move in the shootout to give Vegas the win.
PAUL COTTER 🤢🤢🤢🤢 pic.twitter.com/WXxOFbCmgx— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) November 29, 2022
Cotter has been in and out of the lineup on multiple occasions this season and seems to be finding new ways to make an impact with this team, and his performance in the shootout is definitely one of them. He also scored in the shootout on a beautiful between-the-legs fake earlier this season, but has yet to translate his offensive creativity to regulation time on a consistent basis.
Despite giving up the lead late in the third period which extended the game longer than it should have been, there was a lot to like about how the Golden Knights performed in this game. Their depth forwards proved that they are able to carry the offensive load when the top unit isn’t dominating, the defensive core was able to adjust extremely well despite being without Pietrangelo, and Thompson was able to get back to form and impact the game in a meaningful way.
This was the final game of November for the Golden Knights, finishing the month off with a 9-4-1 record. The month of December will be a busy one as they play 15 games in 31 days, starting off with three more games on the road against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings, and Boston Bruins, who they have a combined 8-13-2 record against.
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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