No one was happy on the Vegas Golden Knights’ penalty kill after giving up two goals on Friday.
The PK responded in kind with maybe its best performance of the year.
The Golden Knights killed all four St. Louis Blues power plays, including a 5-on-3 for 53 seconds in the third period, keying a 5-1 victory at Enterprise Center on Saturday.
“I think we take a lot of pride in our penalty kill,” said coach Pete DeBoer. “When we looked at it yesterday, I don’t think anyone was happy with our effort or execution on it. We reset overnight and coaches did a good job identifying some things we wanted to clean up.”
On Friday, it was the Golden Knights’ power play that was the difference. Reilly Smith scored a 4-on-3 goal in overtime to give Vegas a 5-4 win for its first ever triumph in St. Louis.
Twenty-four hours later, it was one of the league’s top penalty-killing units getting the shine.
The Golden Knights had just taken a 3-1 lead at 7:25 of the third on Max Pacioretty’s team-leading 13th goal. Fifty-eight seconds later, Patrick Brown was called for high-sticking. Chandler Stephenson committed a hooking penalty 1:03 later.
St. Louis came into Saturday scoring at least once on the man advantage and were operating at a 50 percent clip (9-for-18).
“Our penalty kill gave up two last night, and we’re not used to that,” said Golden Knights captain Mark Stone.
Given the fact no game between the Golden Knights and Blues has ever understood normalcy, this seemed like the perfect time for the hockey gods to work their evil magic. It was a 1-0 game after two periods, and live totals at MGM books were taking over 3.5 goals at +167.
Pacioretty’s goal made it 3-1 and pushed the over to -224. Surely, that would’ve been work of the Blues coming back and forcing overtime, rather than the Golden Knights pulling away.
Instead, the Golden Knights saw seven attempts during that stretch of 1:57 with Brown and Stephenson in the box. Five of them were on target at Marc-Andre Fleury, and he turned each of them away.
Fleury made 34 saves in his 15th start in the past 16 games and won his 480th game, moving four behind Ed Belfour for fourth place all-time.
“They have good shooters on both sides. They get off quick one-timers,” Fleury said. “Sometimes you know what they’re going to do, but it still comes fast.”
That notwithstanding, all five Blues shots that were turned away by Fleury came from former teammate David Perron, who had his eight-game point streak snapped. Perron continued to set up shop from the left circle, but Fleury turned him away each time.
“I think a big key from that kill, too, was our guys in front were defending, blocking shots,” Fleury said. “They helped me out a lot in front of the net.”
The Golden Knights put it away 1:19 later with Stone’s second goal of the period to make it 4-1. After scoring three goals in two games at Minnesota earlier this week, Vegas responded with 10 in two games against the team right on their heels in the West Division.
“We knew what we had to do,” Stone said on the kill. “They have a good power play. You can do all you want to keep them to the outside, but they’re going to make their plays.”
Vegas’ penalty kill is now fifth-best in the league at 85.3 percent, which has shown to carry on the road when needed. The Golden Knights finished 4-2-0 on their season-long six-game road trip. They return home for a two-game set Monday against the San Jose Sharks.
This was the most important game of the season for Vegas, given the situation. It’s the final game of the trip, Fleury goes back-to-back, and the Knights respond in kind after escaping with two points Friday.
The Blues are a banged-up mess missing a lot of key guys. They’re still a solid team and will be formidable come playoff time, should the Golden Knights see them again.
“I thought the guys tonight really got it back where it’s been all year,” DeBoer said, “which is a weapon for us and the ability to take away momentum for the other team.”