The Golden Knights are on the kind of hot streak that makes fans forget about earlier struggles.
Vegas on Wednesday withstood an early charge unscathed in the first, grabbed momentum in the second and put the game to bed in the third. Add it all up and the result is a 3-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers at T-Mobile Arena.
It was Vegas' seventh win in a row, one shy of the franchise record. It was the team's third win streak all-time of at least seven games. It was also Marc-Andre Fleury's fifth shutout of the season. He made 29 saves.
Vegas came into the third period holding a 1-0 lead and hungry for more. They had played a strong second period after fending off Edmonton's attack in the first but couldn't extend their lead. That is until the new guy stepped in.
It's been a regular occurrence this season, as Nick Cousins became the sixth Golden Knight this season to score in a team debut, and the third in the last week. He did so on the power play, picking up a rebound and back-handing it into the net at 5:44.
But 2-0 wasn't good enough either. Off a faceoff won by Paul Stastny, Vegas struck again. Stasny's draw went to Alec Martinez who slid the puck over to Shea Theodore, who unleashed a howitzer from the point. The puck ricocheted off the right post and into the net, giving Theodore his 10th of the season and the Golden Knights a 3-0 lead one second shy of the halfway mark of the third.
The Golden Knights also shut down a power play that entered the game as the best in the league. Edmonton had converted on 29.0% of its power plays, but went 0-for-3 tonight. In their final two chances, Vegas held the Oilers without a shot on goal.
The Golden Knights entered the third period with a 1-0 lead courtesy of a Max Pacioretty snipe in the first period. He came in down the left wing and placed it perfectly in the top corner of the net to beat Mikko Koskinen and open the scoring.
That was it for awhile. The second period came and went without a goal, and the score remained 1-0 until Cousins' goal, then Theodore's.
Vegas finished with a 33-29 lead in shots on goal.
Golden Knights maintain lead over Oilers entering final period
The second period saw the Golden Knights claim the possession advantage, but the Edmonton Oilers goalie keep the game close. It was Marc-Andre Fleury in the first who needed to play at the top of his game, and Mikko Koskinen returned the favor in the second.
Both goalies remained on their game, and Vegas maintained its 1-0 lead on the Oilers at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday.
As much as the Oilers controlled the first period, the Golden Knights did the same in the second. Vegas kept the game in the Edmonton zone, and the one time the Oilers got loose — Connor McDavid, of course — Alec Martinez did a great job of cutting off his angle and forcing him wide of a clean shot.
Almost all of the period expired before the game was anything other 5-on-5. With 4:57 left in the second Martinez drew a tripping call to send the Golden Knights to their second power play of the game. They generated a few good looks, but the penalty came and went with the score still 1-0.
The Golden Knights were flagged with a too-many-men penalty in the final second of the period, so Edmonton will start the third period with a two-minute power play.
The Golden Knights led in shots on goal 16-5 in the frame.
Golden Knights grab lead over Oilers after 1
The team that controlled play for most of the period, had the more dangerous looks and the most shots was trailing after a period. Of course.
The Golden Knights spent a lot of the first period chasing the puck, but one well-placed shot gave them a 1-0 lead over the Edmonton Oilers after a period at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday.
The game started with the kind of pace you'd expect in a game between these two teams. Leon Draisaitl and his line started against Vegas' fourth and generated a high-danger chance 15 seconds into the game. The Oilers kept the pressure on early, primarily from the usual Edmonton suspects, but Marc-Andre Fleury was on his game early.
Fleury had to make the early toe save on Draisaitl, but also found himself under siege in the early going. Through 12 minutes and one Edmonton power play, Fleury had already made 11 saves, with a second Oilers power play on deck. Vegas kept Edmonton without a shot one, which included Tomas Nosek getting just enough of Connor McDavid's stick to prevent a shot on goal.
All of that play in the Golden Knights end, but they were the ones who ended up with a 1-0 lead. It was Max Pacioretty who snaked down the right wing and took aim at the short-side corner, hitting it clean and beating Mikko Koskinen at 16:04.
It was Pacioretty's 30th goal of the season, the sixth time in his career he's hit that mark and first time as a Golden Knight.
The Oilers led in shots on goal 12-9 and shot attempts 26-16.
Golden Knights set to clash with Oilers in key Pacific duel
The last time the Golden Knights met the Edmonton Oilers, it was back in November. Vegas was having a putrid month and lost 4-2.
Things have changed since then. The Golden Knights are riding a six-game winning streak, currently the NHL's longest, and they have a new coach.
The standings have held. The Golden Knights and Oilers are first and third in the Pacific Division, and if the game ends in regulation, the winner will go to bed atop the division. More than half of Vegas' remaining games are against Pacific foes, making tonight's 7:30 p.m. game against the Oilers a crucial battle in the race for the division title.
"It always comes down to this, and that's what makes it fun," Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt said. "You have a chance to really put some of these teams behind you with a win or you're putting yourself right in the thick of it if you don't come up with a quick one tonight."
The Oilers look a little different than the last time they were in Las Vegas, too. Then it was about slowing Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, as it always is, the latter of whom leads the NHL in assists and points this year. But they were on the same line last time. Whether that makes it easier to defend is up for debate, but the Oilers went out and got two new wingers at the trade deadline that they have flanking McDavid. Draisaitl is on a separate line.
That means that, most likely, more than half of the game will be played with at least one of Edmonton's monsters on the ice at any given time. That poses its own challenge for the Golden Knights.
"I think, depending on how the game is going, we could see any of those combinations, so you have to prepare for all of them," Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer said. "Bottom line, they're two of the top players in the world. However you roll them out there, they're something we have to deal with."
The Oilers are one of a handful of teams with a winning record against Vegas all-time, carrying a 5-4 record into tonight's contest, though they are just 2-3 at T-Mobile Arena.
Vegas will counter with two new weapons making their team debut. Most notably is backup goalie Robin Lehner, but forward Nick Cousins figures to play a role in the game, as Marc-Andre Fleury will start for the Golden Knights. Cousins was acquired from Montreal at the trade deadline but didn't arrive until after practice this morning because of visa issues.
Cousins' first on-ice interaction with his new teammates will be in a game, which is the same situation Chandler Stephenson was in last December when Vegas acquired him from Washington.
"That's usually how it goes for most guys — you fit in right away," Stephenson said. "Some guys it's a game, a shift, a period; sometimes it's a little longer. It kind of all depends. I think if you're yourself and play your game and do you, it's a quick transition."
For what it's worth, Stephenson scored a goal in Golden Knights' debut.
TV: AT&T Sports Net (DirecTV 684, Cox 1313, CenturyLink 1760)
Radio: Fox Sports 1340 AM and 98.9 FM
Betting line: Golden Knights minus-230, Oilers plus-185; over/under: 6.5 (minus-110, minus-110)
Golden Knights (34-22-8, 76 points) (19-10-4 home), first place, Pacific Division
Coach: Peter DeBoer (first season)
Points leader: Mark Stone (63)
Goals leader: Max Pacioretty (29)
Assists leader: Mark Stone (42)
Expected goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury (2.79 GAA, .906 save percentage)
Oilers (33-22-8, 74 points) (18-12-3 road), third place, Pacific Division
Coach: Dave Tippett (first season)
Points leader: Leon Draisaitl (37)
Goals leader:Leon Draisaitl (62)
Assists leader:Leon Draisaitl (99)
Expected goalie: Mikko Koskinen (2.89 GAA, .911 save percentage)
Golden Knights projected lineup
Jonathan Marchessault—Paul Stastny—Reilly Smith
Max Pacioretty—William Karlsson—Mark Stone
Nick Cousins—Chandler Stephenson—Nicolas Roy
William Carrier—Tomas Nosek—Ryan Reaves
Brayden McNabb—Nate Schmidt
Alec Martinez—Shea Theodore
Nick Holden—Zach Whitecloud
Marc-Andre Fleury, Robin Lehner