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Golden Knights Defeat Coyotes; Tie Dallas for WC Spot, 2 Back of Kings

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Evgenii Dadonov and Shea Theodore Vegas Golden Knights (Photo- Vegas Golden Knights via Twitter)

The Vegas Golden Knights (40-29-4, 84 points) marched back into the Stanley Cup Playoff picture Saturday night with a 6-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes (22-45-5, 49 points). They are now tied with for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference with 84 points and have the tiebreaker over the Dallas Stars.

However, Dallas has two games in hand.

Editor’s Note: The original version of the story indicated the Golden Knights were in a playoff spot.

The Stars, and Nashville Predators who were the pair of Wild Card teams in the West starting the day, both lost their games Saturday, providing a huge opportunity for the Vegas Golden Knights, who took advantage.

Stay tuned with Vegas Hockey Now tomorrow as we re-evaluate the Golden Knight’s chances of making the playoffs as the standings continue to shift.

Max Pacioretty returned to the Golden Knights roster Saturday after missing 12 games with an undisclosed injury. To free up cap space, Nicolas Hague and Brett Howden were placed on LTIR.

Peter DeBoer also opted to go with twelve forwards and six defensemen after the last patch of games where he played Dylan Coghlan as the seventh defenseman.

The Golden Knights opened up the game against the Coyotes Saturday with a strong start. For a moment, it looked like the VGK were going to run up the score on the Coyotes. They scored two goals in 17 seconds to start off the game on the right foot.

Great pressure in the offensive zone led to a Coyotes turnover and Zach Whitecloud found the puck pinching in on the play. He sniped a shot up on Karel Vejmelka for his seventh goal of the season.

Then on the next shift, Chandler Stephenson won a puck battle on the wall and found Pacioretty alone in front of the net. He scored in his first game back to put the Golden Knights up by a pair.

Shots were 7-0 eight minutes into the first and the Golden Knights were basically playing exactly how you would expect them to against the basement-dwelling Coyotes. But this didn’t last long as it became turnover central at T-Mobile Arena, specifically in the Golden Knight’s own end.

Turnovers from Golden Knights defenseman allowed the Coyotes to gain momentum in the second half of the first period.

Michael Carcone chipped a puck off the wall past Alex Pietrangelo and went in on a two-on-one with Barrett Hayton. Carone passed it over to Hayton and while falling, he scored the first goal of the night for the Coyotes.

To make matters worse for the Golden Knights, momentum stuck with the Coyotes as Whitecloud took a slashing penalty. On the kill, Pietrangelo blocked a howitzer from Shayne Gohstisbehere and was shaken up. He toughened it out though and the VGK killed off the penalty.

The Golden Knights went over seven minutes without a shot in the second period and the Coyotes outshot them 11-2 in the second half of the first.

But the Golden Knights came out in the second period much less sloppy and scored early in the second to cushion their lead. Brayden McNabb found Evgenii Dadonov with a long stretch pass and after Vejmelka made the initial save, he fumbled the puck and knocked it in himself.

13 of Dadonov’s 18 goals this season have come at home.

Two-time Stanley Cup Champion Phil Kessel led the offensive charge for the Coyotes as they tried to get back into the game. But Robin Lehner kept his team in the game. He finished the night with 29 saves on 30 shots.

At the other end, Vejmelka was putting on a performance too. He made big saves on Jonas Rondbjerg, Keegan Kolesar, and Jack Eichel to keep his team in the game. But a long-range slapshot beat him blocked side in the third.

With his first goal in 45 games, McNabb scored with a slapshot that may or may not have been deflected. Nonetheless, this put a nail in the coffin for the Yotes.

Rondbjerg and Jake Leschyshyn got in on the fun to make it 5-1. Leschyshyn simply threw a puck towards the net and it found its way through. He had a good game all night and got rewarded for his second career NHL goal.

Jack Eichel then added salt to the wound as the Coyotes decided to leave the best player on the ice all alone and with the puck.

The Golden Knights closed out the game with a simple and disciplined third period to ensure two points in the standings. They will play the Vancouver Canucks again on Tuesday in British Colombia at 7:00 pm.

The Predators play the Penguins, the Kings play the Wild, and the Stars play the Blackhawks tomorrow, all of which have looming effects on the Golden Knights.

VHN’s Player of the Game: Zach Whitecloud

Because he deserves more recognition and does tremendous things on both sides of the puck each and every night that go unnoticed. He scored his seventh of the season Saturday night and there is a reason he’s in the lineup over Coghlan.

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