The Vegas Golden Knights came out roaring in their inaugural home game, scoring four goals in the first 11 minutes of the game and coasting to a 5-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes. It was an emotional night in Las Vegas, as the Golden Knights paid tribute to the victims of the terrible shooting that occurred just ten days ago and honored the local first responders. After this wonderful ceremony, the Golden Knights gave their fans a great performance, dominating the Coyotes for the first 40 minutes of this game.
They were quicker on the puck, playing with more speed and firing on all cylinders. Arizona didn’t have much of an answer for them until the third period when they were down four goals. The Coyotes just couldn’t get to their game early & Vegas made them pay. Hard.
1-0 Vegas (Nosek: 1): The Coyotes had a rush going, but Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt broke it up in their zone & forward William Carrier moved the puck through the neutral zone. He quickly got it to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who spun off Niklas Hjalmarsson & found Tomas Nosek open in the slot. He easily beat Antti Raanta low-glove side for the Golden Knights’ first goal.
2-0 Vegas (Engelland: 1): After a turnover by Kevin Connauton, the Knights quickly made Arizona pay with Brendan Leipsic pulling up in the offensive zone & finding defenseman Deryk Engelland high in the offensive zone. The Las Vegas resident fired a one-timer past Raanta’s glove & gave an already raucous crowd even more to cheer about.
3-0 Vegas (Neal: 4): Vegas made the Coyotes pay for yet another turnover, this time with Alex Goligoski & Brad Richardson misplaying an exchange at the Arizona blue line. Vegas pinned Arizona in again and James Neal scored his fourth goal of the season after Raanta gave up a big rebound in the slot off a shot by Brayden McNabb.
4-0 Vegas (Neal: 5): The Golden Knights would then take advantage of the Coyotes getting into penalty trouble, striking on the power play after a couple of cross-ice passes from Erik Haula and Reilly Smith. Their strong puck movement had Arizona’s defensemen running around & Neal found himself all alone next to the crease to put home Vegas’ fourth goal of the game.
4-1 Vegas (Rieder: 1): A lost offensive zone draw ended up helping the Coyotes, as they intercepted Jason Garrison’s attempted clear and Rieder was able to deflect a shot by Hjalmarsson past Marc-André Fleury to get the ‘Yotes on the board. Lawson Crouse was also in the area to provide some traffic.
5-1 Vegas (Lindberg:1): Vegas went on the attack in transition again after Connauton made a soft keep-in at the offensive blue line. The eventual goal-scorer, Oscar Lindberg, hit Leipsic with a stretch pass the other way & the Vegas forward made the best play of the game. He out-waited Connauton at the blue line, fought off a back-checking Lawson Crouse & made a great cross-seam pass to Lindberg for a beautiful one-timer goal.
5-2 Vegas (Connauton: 1): After pressing hard for the entire third period, the Coyotes found some reward with Connauton finding the back of the net on a point shot. This came after a nice give-and-go with Clayton Keller & Derek Stepan on the zone entry. Stepan circled the net after getting the puck from Keller & hit Connuaton at the blue line to get his first point as a Coyote.
Can Raanta Stand On His Head Again? He didn’t have much help, but Raanta had about as tough of a start as one could imagine. He gave up four goals on his first six shots and was pulled less than 15 minutes into the game. The only one I would really put him at fault for is the first Neal goal, as you don’t want your goalies to give up rebounds directly in the slot. The rest were either off passing plays or clear shots where the Coyotes defense failed him. Just a bad night all-around.
Can The Penalty Kill Keep It Up? They ended up only taking three penalties on the night and killed off two of them. Not exactly the best percentage and they were totally out of sync on the goal they did give up. Neither Luke Schenn nor Kevin Connauton were anywhere close to being in good position on that second Neal goal. This was after allowing two cross-seam passes, which is really making life tough on your goaltender.
Can They Spoil The Party? Tonight couldn’t have gone any better for the Golden Knights. They got the performance they were looking for from their team, had an electric building and became the first expansion team to start a season 3-0. The Coyotes didn’t have much of a response at all until Rieder’s goal & they already dug themselves a pretty big hole by then.
Players of the Game
Arizona: Clayton Keller: He seemed to be the only player on Arizona that was creating any offense for the entire game. It really showed in the third period when there was more open ice, but he had a lot of good shifts in the first 40 minutes and was the only one helping tilt the ice for Arizona. He also got a well-earned secondary assist on Connauton’s goal.
Vegas: Brendan Leipsic: Neal had the two goals, but Leipsic was super impressive to watch all game. He helped Vegas’ strong start with the primary assist on Engelland’s goal and had the best play of the game on Lindberg’s goal. He is one of those players who is just now getting his chance to shine after being a stud in other leagues & he took full advantage of it tonight with a two-point game.
3. James Neal
2. Deryk Engelland
1. The City of Las Vegas
- For the Vegas perspective on this game, check out Knights On Ice
- Arizona has a group of talented defensemen that are all playing very poorly right now & it’s obvious when you saw them try to exit the zone. None of them could handle Vegas’ forecheck through the first 40 minutes and the most they could do was just dump the puck out & hope that one of the forwards could do something with it. They’ve been doing this a lot this year, even when there’s no pressure, and it’s having an effect on their play in all three zones. They can’t get up the ice cleanly, which means they are scrambling in the neutral zone and are exhausted by the time they even have a chance to play offense. It’s been a trend these first three games and I’m curious if we see an adjustment. Players like Goligoski, Ekman-Larsson & Demers shouldn’t be struggling this much with the puck, as moving the play forward is supposed to be their best asset.
- A little extra shoutout to Louis Domingue for his performance here. He gave up a goal in the second period, but the Coyotes were getting hemmed in badly after Raanta got pulled & Domingue had to come up big a few times to keep this from getting even more out of hand.
- Brendan Perlini left the game with a lower-body injury in the second period and did not return.
- Christian Fischer & Lawson Crouse were a small positive from this game. The Coyotes had to dump the puck in a lot & these two know how to operate when the game gets like that. They were able to create a few good chances as a result.
The Coyotes return home to Gila River Arena tomorrow to take on the Detroit Red Wings. Puck drop will be at 7 PM AZ time and will be shown regionally on Fox-Sports Arizona and Fox Sports Detroit.