Shortly after scoring two goals in Monday night's 4-2 victory over Arizona, Vegas forward Reilly Smith was asked what he expects to be different Wednesday night in Las Vegas when the teams play the second game in what amounts to a four-game series.
"Well, hopefully we get off to a better start,"Smith said after the Golden Knights needed a three-goal third-period rally to push their season start to a perfect 3-0.
Smith scored twice in that third-period comeback, as Vegas has needed strong third period finishes following so-so starts in every game. Vegas, which trailed the Coyotes 2-1 after two periods on Monday night, has outscored its opponents, 8-0, after the second period so far this season.
That includes a William Karlsson game-tying goal with 1:22 left in regulation in an eventual 2-1 overtime victory over Anaheim on Saturday night. That followed a 5-2 victory over the Ducks in their season-opener two nights earlier that was tied, 2-2, entering the final period before the Golden Knights scored three times.
So even though Vegas is undefeated and leads the West Division by two points over St. Louis and Minnesota heading into Wednesday night's games, it hasn't been easy.
"That's a strength to have," said Karlsson about his team's strong finishes so far. "It's never over when we're on the ice. But I wish we could play a better full 60 minutes."
"We've definitely kept it interesting the last couple of games," he said. "We have to do a better job at the start of the game. It's tough to play catchup all the time, especially with so many games in such little time."
Arizona outshot the Golden Knights, 28-15, over the first two periods but led only 2-0 late in the second period when Max Pacioretty brought Vegas to within one with his third goal of the season, knocking in a rebound of his own shot that bounced back to him off the back boards. Pacioretty's bad-angle shot hit the shoulder of Darcy Kuemper and trickled inside the right post.
Vegas tied it, 2-2, four minutes into the third period when Smith, driving to the net, scored on a no-look, between-the-legs pass from Karlsson from behind the net. Chandler Stephenson scored what proved to be the game-winning goal four minutes later when Zach Whitecloud's shot from the right point hit him in the back and caromed into the goal. Smith then sealed it with an empty net goal.
"We had them on the ropes," Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said. "Two-nothing. They didn't have anything. And then they got a couple of lucky goals.
"You've got to play 60 minutes," Tocchet added. "They've got some men over there going to the net hard. We've got to get to the net. We've got to get underneath, and we've got to compete for 60 if you're going to beat a team like that."
Wednesday will be the second of a back-to-back in Las Vegas. The two teams then move to Glendale, Ariz., where they will play another back-to-back on Friday night and Sunday afternoon.
"I told the team, you almost approach it like a four-game playoff," Tocchet said. "If you want to think big picture, think playoff series."
--Field Level Media