The Vegas Golden Knights (16-11) special teams have been atrocious the past handful of games. Entering tonight’s game against the Minnesota Wild (19-8-1) the Golden Knights had given up five powerplay goals in two games and the powerplay was operating at the bottom of the league.
But you wouldn’t know that watching Sunday night’s game against the Wild as the Vegas Golden Knights special teams came up big and the team defeated the Wild 6-4.
Chandler Stephenson returned to the lineup after missing Friday’s game due to personal reasons. With both Stephenson and William Karlsson back down the middle for the Golden Knights things have changed quickly in terms of their center-ice depth. Last game Keegan Kolesar was the team’s first-line center.
From the very get-go, it was evident that these two teams did not quite like each other. Last season the Golden Knights and Wild played a total of fifteen times with eight regular-season games and then in a seven-game playoff series.
Thanks to yet another anticipatory defensive play from Mark Stone, the Golden Knights scored the first goal of the game. Stone picked off the puck and gave it to Stephenson who then fed Zach Whitecloud. Whitecloud walked into the slot and fired home the game’s first goal.
The Golden Knights for the majority of the first two periods played as the better team. However, they were unable to run away with the lead due to simple mistakes which the Wild capitalized on.
With a good screen from Nico Sturm in front of the net, the Wild tied things up with a goal from Alex Goligoski. The Golden Knights were able to regain their lead though as they actually scored on the powerplay for once. In what appeared to be a set play, Evgenii Dadonov fired home the go-ahead goal after some pretty passing from the Golden Knights.
But again the Golden Knights were unable to build on their lead as the Wild evened up the score in the first. With just 0.6 seconds left in the period, Mats Zuccarello scored after some sustained offensive zone pressure from the Wild.
Things continued to get worse for the Golden Knights early in the second period. With plenty of time and space, Nick Bjugstad scored just nine seconds into the period to make it 3-2. But Zach Whitecloud scored his second goal of the game to tie things up at 3-3.
In his first game back, Chandler Stephenson went on to have a career-high four-point game, all of which were assists. He had another great pass to Max Pacioretty in the second period. Patches split the defense and scored yet again for the Golden Knights.
He now has ten goals in ten games and now holds the longest goal-scoring streak in Vegas Golden Knight’s history at six games.
After the goal, a scrum ensued between Nicolas Hague and Ryan Hartman. Pacioretty, Pietrangelo, and Dmitry Kulikov came in to join the fun as things continued. After the festivities the Golden Knights found themselves killing a penalty. But after Pietrangelo took a penalty on the kill, they were down two men for a good bit of time.
The Golden Knights were able to kill off the extended five-on-three. But just when it seemed like the team was in the clear they took another penalty. However, with a good streak going the Golden Knights penalty kill was able to kill off another Wild powerplay.
Robin Lehner goofed a little bit early on the third period.
On a shot from Jared Spurgeon that was going wide, Lehner attempted to glove the puck. He was unable to fully squeeze the puck and it fell out of his glove and went right to Marcus Foligno. He made no mistake and scored his 13th goal of the year to tie things up.
The Minnesota Wild simply would not go away and the Golden Knights had to battle all night long to get the victory.
If you were to tell me 48 hours ago that the Golden Knights penalty kill and powerplay would be their saving grace I would have not believed you.
But alas the Golden Knights got a powerplay chance in the third with the game tied and Mark Stone scored.
“You see what happens when you shoot the puck!” said some guy in section 117 (probably).
The Wild continued to pressure and did so to the final buzzer. With the goaltender pulled the Golden Knights scored a home-run goal. Pietrangelo scored from his own end behind his own goal line. The Golden Knights won 6-4.
The Golden Knights will be back in action Tuesday night at 4:00 pm against the Boston Bruins on the road.
VHN’s Three Stars of the Game: Zach Whitecloud, Mark Stone, Will Carrier.