Golden Knights’ Inaugural Game, a Night of Firsts

It was a trying week to say the least for the city of Las Vegas. Last Sunday’s tragedy left the residents with little to smile about and it was only when the accounts of heroism and generosity began springing up after the attack that the dark clouds of oppression began to abate somewhat. But when the Golden Knights took the ice against the Dallas Stars on Friday night, fans of the team and of the city of Vegas itself came together full of hope that the team could deliver some much-needed good news.

The Dallas Stars were a class act from the get-go, opting to skate around behind the Golden Knights players to stand with them in a show of solidarity and support for the fallen victims. But after that lovely conciliatory gesture, they wasted no time getting the game off to a furious pace of puck-firing action.

Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Marc-Andre Fleury was godlike in his first regular season game as the Golden Knights’ goaltender, but with that kind of puck pounding, eventually one of the 46 shots of the night was bound to slip through, and it did, giving Dallas the 1-0 lead at 17:01 in the second period. That would be the last time the Stars would score against Fleury, however, and he ended the night with 45 saves.

Momentum Shift

Four minutes into the third period, luck would change in favor of the Golden Knights when Ben Bishop, the Stars’ star goaltender, left the ice bleeding after he took a puck to the mask from Reilly Smith. And that’s when “The Real Deal” James Neal jumped into action to exploit the Stars’ replacement in net.

Neal scored twice in the final period and one could feel the spirit of sadness hovering over the city of Las Vegas in full retreat as fans watched what was nothing short of a determined, athletic effort on his second goal that he managed to pull off whilst sliding hard and fast to his knees. En route to his crash landing, Neal’s stick hounded the puck and somehow scooped it up and into the net.

Neal missed all of the preseason recovering from broken-hand surgery to repair the damage he sustained in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs and thankfully for Vegas fans he was activated just in time to best the Stars. The Real Deal’s effort was in the end enough to indeed seal the deal, and truly it was his come-from-behind heroics that won the day. But it was the other hero, Marc-Andre Fleury, who kept them in the game at all, and he stands as a living testimony to the collective wisdom of the organization when they decided to build their team from the net out.

Even though he only let one puck slip past, Fleury’s words after the game might stand as a solemn warning to those who think they can just skate in and blow this new expansion team out of the water with a high-scoring thrashing. “I expect to stop them all,” he said.

Coach Gerard Gallant put it this way: “It was a 2-1 hockey game but was really a 5-4 hockey game, the goaltending was excellent at both ends.” The Stars outshot the Golden Knights 46-30 and the latter continued their abysmal streak on the power play, following up their preseason 0-for-21 record with a 0-for-7 performance (or lack thereof) against the Stars.

A Night of Firsts

After all was said and done, it was a night of firsts for the Golden Knights. The first shot went to David Perron. The first (and second) goal went to James Neal. The first save (and many more) went to Marc-Andre Fleury. And the first penalty went to Jonathan Marchessault.

More importantly, the first win for the Golden Knights goes down in history as occurring on Oct. 6, 2017.

Vegas Golden Knights 2, Dallas Stars 1.