The stakes were high. The Golden Knights had a four-point lead over Colorado in the standings. A win could put them six-points ahead with eight games remaining, and a loss could bring the Avs within two.
The Golden Knights answered the bell in kind, picking up their 10th straight win and knocking off the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.
“It’s a big win for us,” Captain Mark Stone said. “We’ve been playing some of our best hockey, but we want to play the best. It was nice to play them and see where we were at.”
It only took 10 seconds for the Golden Knights to get on the board. A pass from Alex Pietrangelo pinballed off the skate of Samuel Girard and onto the stick of William Karlsson. Karlsson buried the back-hand opportunity past Devan Dubnyk for his 13th goal of the season. The Avalanche woke up shortly after, but Marc-Andre Fleury stood on his head to keep them off the board. This would not last however, as Devon Toews would score off a rebound near the net to even the score at one. The score remained the same entering the first intermission.
The Avalanche came out of the second intermission on fire, but Fleury stood tall in net to keep the score even. Max Pacioretty gave the Golden Knights the lead at the 9:36 mark on the power play. Later, Mark Stone scored by banking his shot off Dubnyk to give Vegas a 3-1 lead. Three minutes before the period ended however, Ryan Graves scored to cut the Vegas lead to one.
That would be as close as the Avalanche would come to making a comeback. 55 seconds into the third period, Pacioretty scored his second goal of the game from Stone to give the Golden Knights a 4-2 lead. Colorado had ample opportunities to cut into the Vegas lead, but Fleury shut down any chance they had of making a comeback. With 79 seconds remaining in the game, Jonathan Marchessault scored on the empty net to give the VGK a 5-2 victory.
Perhaps the main catalyst to the Golden Knights victory was their netminder. Fleury, especially in the second period when Vegas struggled to generate offense, made key save after key save to keep the Golden Knights from sinking.
“[Our goalies] go in every night and give us a chance to win, and [Fleury] did that tonight,” Stone said. “I think at 1-1 if [Fleury] doesn’t make some of those key saves it doesn’t allow us to stay there.”
The Golden Knights were also able to keep Nathan Mackinnon in check. Mackinnon only had one assist in 23:38 on ice. He did have six shots on net, but none of them went past Fleury.
“When [Mackinnon] is on ice, you have to play the game a little different,” Pacioretty said. “I think we did a good job of playing a smart game.”
The Golden Knights now hold a six-point advantage over Colorado with eight games remaining in the regular season. Seven of their next eight games are against teams currently in the playoffs or chasing the final spot. Whereas for Colorado, they only have one such game remaining. At this point, any advantage they have could prove beneficial down the stretch.
Up next for the Golden Knights, they travel to Arizona on Friday to finish out the season series.