Two days after beating the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals for their biggest win of the season, the Vegas Golden Knights weren’t about to let themselves slip up against slumping Chicago.
But they came awfully close.
Jonathan Marchessault and Alex Tuch scored 12 seconds apart in the third period to send the surging Golden Knights past the Blackhawks 4-3 on Thursday night.
“Every game is big, every win is big. It’s two points,” Tuch said. “Especially at home. I thought our crowd showed up and did a really good job of keeping us in there.”
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Playing in front of 18,494 fans — the second-largest crowd in the two-year history of the franchise — Vegas won for the seventh time in eight games and moved into a third-place tie with San Jose in the Pacific Division.
The Blackhawks, meanwhile, dropped their sixth straight and have been outscored 30-17 during the skid.
After allowing the Blackhawks to score three consecutive goals for a 3-2 lead in the third, the defending Western Conference champions responded. Marchessault fired a shot past goalie Corey Crawford to tie the game, and 12 seconds later it was Tuch punching one in to put Vegas back on top.
Vegas’ game-winning goal didn’t come without controversy, though, as Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton challenged for goaltender interference. A video review determined Max Pacioretty was forced into Crawford by Blackhawks defenseman Brandon Manning while he backhanded the puck to Tuch, who slipped it through Crawford’s legs.
“I thought it was (a goal) when I saw the replay,” Tuch said. “Then I was like, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen.’ But you know what? They called it a goal and when you think about it after that you’re just really happy. I just wanted to get it to the net so I made a quick little give-and-go play … then I just tried to get it on the net and found a hole.”
Reilly Smith had a goal and two assists and Deryk Engelland scored his first goal of the season for the Golden Knights. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 32 shots.
Jonathan Toews, Dylan Strome and Artem Anisimov scored for Chicago. Crawford made 32 saves.
“We had the lead in the third and found a way to give it up again,” Toews said. “Whatever happens early on, we’re finding ways to stay in games and give ourselves a chance to win. Just (stinks) we couldn’t hang on to it. … Anytime you’re in a slump, whether it’s as a player or as a team, it’s hard to get out of it. It’s a mental thing. You’ve just got to find a way to relax and stay with your process when things are going well and when you’re in control of the game.”
The Golden Knights continued to dominate with their penalty kill, as they’ve gone seven games without allowing a power-play goal. Since Nov. 23, Vegas has denied 20 consecutive power-play opportunities by opponents, including four against Chicago.
“We’re just going out there as a unit, whoever is out there, and working together and doing our job,” Engelland said. “And with (Fleury) back there bailing us out whenever we need him.”
Vegas took an early lead when Smith tipped the puck to himself over Crawford, then dove across the crease while shooting it into the net.
Engelland scored when his wrist shot from the point sailed over Crawford’s glove.
Toews inched closer to his 700th career point when he slammed a carom off the end boards past Fleury and cut Vegas’ lead in half four minutes into the second.
Later in the period it was Strome gathering Alex DeBrincat’s rebound and firing a shot from a wicked angle to tie it at 2.
Anisimov gave Chicago its third straight goal when he streaked in to intercept Nick Holden’s pass and beat Fleury on a breakaway with a backhand seven minutes into the third.
And while Vegas coach Gerard Gallant was happy with the win, he was critical of his team’s execution.
“We scored two goals and won the game, but I thought it was a pretty even third period,” Gallant said. “I don’t think we’re really happy with our game again tonight. I thought Chicago played a great game. They came in here and worked hard. … I just didn’t think we were at the level we were supposed to be. We got a win, and it’s always great to get the two points, but I thought Chicago came in here and deserved a little better.”
NOTES: Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis was in attendance. … MLB sluggers and Las Vegas natives Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant were also in the sellout crowd. … William Karlsson’s assist on Engelland’s goal was his 100th point with the Golden Knights. … Toews is two points shy of 700.
Blackhawks: Host the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday.
Golden Knights: Visit the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.