LAS VEGAS — Shea Theodore’s goal in the second round of the shootout lifted the Vegas Golden Knights to a 6-5 win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
Malcolm Subban, who made 32 saves, stopped all three of Florida’s attempts in the shootout.
Vegas picked up a much-needed two points with the win, as hard-charging Arizona defeated Vancouver 5-2 earlier in the night. The Coyotes are six points behind Vegas in the Pacific Division.
The Panthers, who came up one point short of the playoffs last season, have been making a late push of late, going 5-1-2 in their past eight games and 8-5-2 in February.
Reilly Smith scored twice, while Paul Stastny, Jon Merrill and Colin Miller scored for Vegas.
Mike Hoffman scored two goals for Florida, with Aaron Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau also scoring for the Panthers. Roberto Luongo, who made his first start against Vegas, made 41 saves. It was the second straight game Luongo was involved in a shootout after Arizona beat the Panthers 4-3 on Tuesday night.
Stastny opened the scoring three minutes into the game, when he collected the puck after a faceoff in the offensive zone, and pulled the trigger with a quick flip past Luongo. Stastny has a point in 19 of his last 26 games, with six goals and 20 assists.
It wouldn’t take long for the Panthers to swipe momentum once Vegas committed its first two penalties later in the first period as Hoffman scored consecutive power-play goals from the same spot in the right circle to give Florida a 2-1 lead. Ekblad’s one-time rifle from the top whizzed through traffic to make it 3-1.
The second period belonged to Vegas, as it outhit (13-9), outshot (20-16) and outscored (3-1) Florida.
Smith got it started when he gathered the puck on the doorstep, pulled it back between his legs and flicked it past Luongo. Then it was Merrill with a laser from the top of the left circle to tie the game. Finally, the recently benched Miller completed the trifecta of goals when his one-timer from Nate Schmidt raced past Luongo.
Barkov simmered Vegas’ momentum when he punched the puck through Subban’s five-hole with less than a minute remaining in the second, making it 4-4.
Huberdeau made it 5-4 early in the third period when he snapped his own rebound while falling to the ice, and Subban sprawling amidst a mass gathering in front of the net.
Smith got his second goal of the game when his wrist shot ricocheted off Mike Matheson’s stick, and redirected past Luongo to tie it at 5 with 4:18 left.
NOTES: Goaltender Sam Montembeault, who was recalled from the Springfield Thunderbirds on emergency basis, awaits his NHL debut. … Two of Vegas’ top four points-getters – Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith – came from the Panthers organization. … Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant and Vegas forward Brandon Pirri are also former members of the Panthers organization. … Hoffman, a former Ottawa teammate of Vegas’ newly acquired Mark Stone, leads Florida with 30 goals and 13 power-play goals. … With his first two-goal game of the season, Smith has a point in eight of his last 10 games (three goals, eight assists) for Vegas. … Huberdeau has 13 points (five goals, eight assists) over his last seven games.
Florida: Hosts Carolina on Saturday.
Vegas: Visits Anaheim on Friday.
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W.G. Ramirez, The Associated Press