Neither offense could break through during the first 22 minutes of the Golden Knights’ clash with the Coyotes Sunday night at T-Mobile Arena.
That ended when Vegas defenseman Colin Miller delivered a nearly 60-foot pass from his own blue line, hitting Alex Tuch perfectly in stride as he snuck behind the Arizona defensemen. Tuch finished the play off for his sixth goal of the season, but it was Miller’s vision and touch on the pass that really broke the defense.
The Golden Knights’ potent transition offense was stymied during their three-game losing streak, but returned in spectacular fashion against the Coyotes, accounting for all three goals in Vegas’ 3-2 overtime win.
“(Arizona) has some really offensive defensemen like (Oliver) Ekman-Larsson and (Jason) Demers so they like playing on the offensive side of the puck, and we were able to catch them a couple times,” Tuch said.
Following the 2004-2005 lockout season for the NHL it removed its “two-line offsides” rule, allowing players to make longer passes without stopping play. Miller takes full advantage of the current rules, as he is one of the best at stretch passes.
“It makes it a lot easier on the forwards,” Tuch said. “It starts the offense and keeps us out of the defensive zone as much as possible too.”
His pass sliced Arizona’s defense in half, leaving them helpless to Tuch, who was barreling towards the net at full speed.
“He had his head up all the way,” Tuch said. “I saw he had the puck and I knew I could just take off. I just had to be available for him because I knew the defenseman took a bad angle on me and then it was just catching the puck.”
It was Miller’s 10th assist of the season; good enough for sixth on the Golden Knights and second amongst defensemen. Minutes later, he found Tuch with another stretch pass -- this one through an even tighter window -- but it didn’t result in a goal.
Nevertheless, Miller’s ability to threaten the defense with those types of passes opens them up for other options later in the game.
“I thought the guys were available for those passes tonight,” head coach Gerard Gallant said. “Transition is a big part of our hockey game and I thought they did a good job. We talked about moving the puck quickly to our forwards and for the most part they did that tonight.”
Miller stressed that his passing ability is only part of the equation.
“Our forwards have a lot of speed and a lot of skill so it makes it tough on the opponent,” Miller said. “I think Tuch did a great job of getting behind their defense a couple times. With his speed it makes it easy but I think we did a good job all night of stretching them out and making it tough on their defense.”
Another great play that went unnoticed on the box score was a pass by Miller late in the second period where he faked a slapshot, and calmly slid the puck through the defense.
That time it didn’t pay off, but it shows the playmaking ability he has from the point that will benefit the Golden Knights in the future.
For all of the great plays Miller made on the offensive end, perhaps his most important moment came only inches from his own goalline.
The puck trickled past goaltender Malcolm Subban but Miller flew in and batted the puck away to keep the game tied.
“I just saw it back there so I tried to hit it,” Miller said. “Luckily I got it with my stick and then I just fell on it. It was a bit of a scramble there but I was happy to keep it out of the net.”
In the end, the Golden Knights improved to 5-0 in overtime this season (with one loss in a shootout on Nov. 6 to Toronto) and 10-2-0 at home.