The Vegas Golden Knights can move into a first-place tie in the West Division if they can complete a sweep of their back-to-back with the host Anaheim Ducks on Sunday afternoon.
Vegas, which has a five-game winning streak, already has swept nine two-game back-to-backs this season. The Golden Knights enter Sunday’s game coming off a dominating 4-0 victory over the Ducks on Friday night and trail first-place Colorado by two points.
Both Vegas and the Avalanche have played 43 of their 56 regular-season games and have 30 victories apiece, the only two teams in the NHL to hit that win mark. But with Colorado in a COVID-related pause until at least Thursday, the Golden Knights, who return home to play San Jose on Monday and Wednesday, are in position to take over the top spot.
“I mean, it’s huge,” Vegas center William Karlsson said when asked how important it would be for his team to overtake the Avalanche. “We need to win pretty much every game, I feel like. We’ve got two games coming up against them, too, which will probably decide who is going to be No. 1 and No. 2. They’ve played really, really well lately. We’ve got to be on top of our toes every game.”
There was no denying that the Golden Knights were on their toes in Friday night’s victory, outshooting Anaheim 38-9 over the first two periods, including 23-3 in the second while matching their season high with 51 shots on goal. Goaltender Robin Lehner barely broke a sweat while posting his first shutout of the season, stopping 16 shots.
“I think that needs to be part of our identity, really,” said Karlsson, whose goal nine seconds into the second period proved to be the game-winner. “I know that’s going to frustrate a lot of other teams as well if we play like that where they get no shots or chances, really. If we can keep playing like that, then we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”
Vegas entered Friday’s game off a 6-2 win at Los Angeles that saw the Golden Knights outshoot the Kings 24-10 over the last two periods.
“I like how we’re playing,” said Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer. “I don’t know if (Friday’s win) was our most complete (game), but I think we’re starting to feel like our game is going for longer periods in the right direction. We’re starting to dictate games pretty consistently here, which is what you want to do down the stretch.”
Anaheim had come in off an impressive back-to-back road sweep against San Jose, winning 4-0 and 4-1.
“I think this was a tough game for us,” Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg said. “We were coming off two good games in San Jose and feeling pretty good about our game. But obviously tonight is a step in the wrong direction. We kind of played slow. We got stuck out there. Long shifts, just because we couldn’t make plays with the puck.”
“To me, Vegas is the hardest-working team in our division,” added Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins. “They are relentless on loose pucks. They’re strong on puck battles, and that’s why they’re one of the elite teams in the League.”
–Field Level Media