Sunday night's game against the Colorado Avalanche helped prove those doubters wrong, as the Golden Knights shut out the Avalanche in a 1-0 victory.
"It was a great hockey game," Golden Knight's head coach Peter DeBoer said. "Both teams played hard. It was a playoff type feel to that game."
Both teams had quality opportunities in both the first and second period, but it was Max Pacioretty who scored the lone goal in the game. His goal came just one minute and 38 seconds into the second period. The game became a “white knuckle” ride from this point on, as the pace of the game picked up dramatically. The Golden Knights had multiple opportunities to add to their lead, including a two-on-one rush with Mark Stone and Chandler Stephenson that failed to score. Phillip Grubauer played a fantastic game in net for the Avs and kept his team in it, despite letting in the only goal.
The Avalanche had multiple prime scoring opportunities while searching for the equalizer goal. The cards were stacked against Vegas, as this was their sixth game in 10 days. Meanwhile Colorado had just come off an 11-day break due to COVID-19 protocols. Marc-Andre Fleury however, continued his dominant play in net for the Golden Knights and recorded his second shutout of the season. He made a couple incredible saves at key moments of the game, one of which came against former Golden Knight Pierre-Edouard Bellemare late in the third period.
“[Fleury] was fantastic, and he was fantastic yesterday in San Jose,” DeBoer said. “When you look at our schedule and Robin [Lehner] going down, we’ve asked him to play a bunch of games in a row. He’s had the energy to do it. Not only do it, but do it at a high level.”
With the absence of Shea Theodore, the Golden Knight’s defense core had to step up in a big way. Alex Pietrangelo, who had been struggling to return to form since debuting for the Golden Knights, quietly had his best game of the season. While he did not show up on the score sheet, his presence in the defensive and neutral zones was felt. More importantly, he helped shut down one of the National Hockey League’s best players in Nathan Mackinnon. Pietrangelo was on ice for roughly 18 of the 22 minutes that Mackinnon played in the game (per SinBin.Vegas) and did not allow Mackinnon much time and space to generate scoring opportunities.
“They’re good players,” Pietrangelo said. “We did a good job making them defend. They’re dangerous in the [offensive] zone, and the best way to defend that is to play with the puck.”
The Golden Knights moved to 10-2-1 and are still undefeated in their new gold uniforms. They currently sit atop the Western Division with 21 points and two games in hand on the second place St. Louis Blues. They are also tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the lead in point’s percentage at .808. Their next three games come against the Avalanche, one of which will take place in Lake Tahoe. The Golden Knights will need to bring their best game this coming Tuesday, as the Avalanche will look to rebound after losing.