Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2018

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A better team than people expected’: Golden Knights starting to turn heads at 5-1


L.E. Baskow

Vegas Golden Knights goalie Malcolm Subban (30) and teammates come together on the ice to celebrate their overtime victory over the Buffalo Sabres 5-4 during their game at the T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017.

The last time a team was as good as the Golden Knights to start their inaugural season, President Woodrow Wilson was declaring war on Germany in World War I.

No first-year team in the NHL had started 5-1 since the 1917 Montreal Canadiens, until David Perron scored in overtime and the Golden Knights claimed the same record through six games.

When Perron’s overtime wrist shot flew past Buffalo goalie Chad Johnson and into the twine of the net, T-Mobile Arena erupted as the Golden Knights sealed a 5-4 victory.

With the win, the surprising start to the season stretched longer, and eventually people may just have to admit the team is good.

“We all play with a chip on our shoulder and we’re all excited to be here,” Perron said. “We were all left unprotected by our old team and we have something to prove to ourselves and the team that picked us.”

Revenge games are nothing new in sports, but the Golden Knights seem to be on an 82-game revenge tour. During June’s expansion draft, the team took a player from each of the 30 NHL teams, and each and every one wants to prove to their former team they should have kept them around.

“I didn’t think it was a big deal, but William Carrier had his best game tonight,” Golden Knights coach said about the former Buffalo Sabre. “It definitely made a difference. I didn’t think it did but tonight he proved it to me.”

Carrier didn’t find his way onto the score sheet, but created chances and drew penalties with his aggressive charges to the net against his former teammates.

Perron, who will play against his former team the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, was the hero of the night for Vegas. Early in the third period Perron scored to extend the Golden Knights’ lead to 4-1.

“It was almost like a meaningless goal at the time, but it ended up being extremely huge,” Perron said.

Not only did the goal matter when the Sabres scored three straight goals to tie it and send the game into overtime, but it gave Perron the confidence he needed.

“That’s kind of the way I am,” Perron said. “Obviously confidence is important for everyone, but I needed it. (James) Neal found me in the slot and I was glad to put it home.”

In the Golden Knights' first overtime win of the season, Oct. 7 in Arizona, it was Perron who drew the defense and fed Neal for the game winner. Tonight it was reversed.

“Neal did 50 percent if not more of the play,” Perron said. “He drew the defense toward him, gave me space, gave me the puck and I found the hole.”

Neal has gotten his, already with six goals on the season, but Perron got his first two goals tonight.

“The first few games I was finding Neal a lot and he was scoring, so I got into the mode of being a passer, but I need to be able to shoot pucks when I have the opportunities,” Perron said.

Through six games, the biggest problem for the Golden Knights has been finding roster spots for all of the deserving players.

Alex Tuch scored his second goal in as many games since being called up from the American Hockey League. Even with his impressive play, he could still find himself as the odd man out when Erik Haula and Jonathan Marchessault return from injuries.

On defense, proven veterans Jason Garrison and Brayden McNabb were both healthy scratches Tuesday night, and youngster Brad Hunt played exceptionally well with the opportunity.

“I think there is a lot of talent spread out throughout our roster,” Gallant said. “The guys here are ready to get their career going. It’s a talented group.”

It’s not a problem most expected the Golden Knights to face, especially this early.

“We are probably scoring a little more than we thought we would, but when you have players like this and they’re hungry, working hard every night and having fun, they can score,” Gallant said.

It’s early, with 76 games still remaining in the regular season, but there comes a point when the Golden Knights lose the “Cinderella” tag and become a legitimate contender for a playoff spot.

As of now Vegas has sole possession of first place in the Western Conference with 10 points. The only team in the NHL with more points than the Golden Knights is the Tampa Bay Lightning, which has played an extra game.

“I think it’s a better team than people expected,” Gallant said. “After the expansion draft, when I saw the list of our team, I was pretty impressed. There are some top six forwards there that you don’t expect to get in an expansion draft, but the rules were different and we got some really talented hockey players.”

There’s still plenty of time for the Golden Knights' carriage to turn into a pumpkin, but midnight keeps looking further and further away as the team continues to win.

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