AP Photo / John Locher
Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017 | 12:45 a.m.
The Golden Knights are taking on the personality of their city — they’re becoming known for late nights.
Late Saturday night, Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith slid a pass just underneath a diving defenseman’s stick right to teammate William Karlsson, who buried the puck into the back of the net for a game-winning, overtime goal.
The Golden Knights’ 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues was their second straight overtime win, and made them 3-for-3 in games stretching beyond regulation on the year.
“In overtime we know you have to take some risks to win the game and that’s what we do,” said defenseman Luca Sbisa. "We aren't afraid to lose in overtime."
It’s appropriate the first major professional sports team in Las Vegas’ history goes for broke when it gets late. The players’ explanations for why they’ve been so successful in overtime are similarly fitting.
“Luck,” Smith laughed, perhaps only half-joking. “Just kidding. We’re doing a good job just keeping teams to the outside. They had some chances and (Oscar) Dansk made some big saves. It’s just the last shot that goes in and luckily we’ve had the positive luck the last few games.”
Karlsson’s goal with 23 seconds left in overtime elevated the Golden Knights to 6-1-0 on the season, tied for the third best record in the NHL. But half the wins have come in overtime.
James Neal was the first overtime hero, scoring in Arizona in Vegas’ second game. David Perron fired the game-winner against the Sabres on Tuesday.
One reason for the Golden Knights’ success in overtime’s three-on-three play comes from hours of focus on it in practice.
“In practice we do a lot of two-on-ones and in overtime that’s how you score,” Sbisa said. “I think our strength is transitioning the puck and that is a huge part of overtime.”
With only six players on the ice, overtime is essentially one odd-man rush after another until a team finally capitalizes.
“Obviously we took advantage of it tonight and we do a lot of two-on-one drills,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “That’s part of my coaching and it’s what I’ve been done since I’ve been coaching. I think it’s good for the players because they want to make their plays, and you score a lot of goals in the NHL that way. It’s hard to score on the goalie coming down one-on-one but when you make that east-west pass across and get that opportunity it’s tougher for the goaltender.”
The Golden Knights won the game, but lost their second goaltender this season to injury. Malcolm Subban, who had 37 saves on Saturday, injured his leg early in the third period while stretching to save a shot that went wide of the net.
Rookie goalie Dansk entered the game with no NHL experience and the team nursing a 2-1 lead despite being severely outplayed throughout the game.
“We said , ‘Let’s help Dansk out here,’” Karlsson said. “It’s a tough situation to jump into. I think he played great and made some huge saves to help us get the win.”
Dansk allowed the game-tying goal on the first shot he faced, but there wasn’t much he could have done. St. Louis captain Alex Pietrangelo fired a slap shot into the top of the net to tie the game with 5:08 to play.
Dansk played exceptionally from there, including getting two crucial stops during the overtime period.
Gallant said Subban’s injury was only classified as “lower body,” but that the goaltender is expected to have an MRI done on Sunday.
With Fleury still out with a concussion, the Golden Knights may have to rely on Dansk for some time.
The Blues out-shot the Golden Knights 49-22, and nearly scored multiple times late in the game as Vegas turned conservative. It's one of many times the team has struggled to hold a third-period lead this season.
On Tuesday, the Sabres came back from down 4-1 to force overtime.
"We aren’t afraid to lose in overtime, but we’re afraid to lose in the third period," Sbisa said. "We have to learn from that. We kind of step back too much instead of chasing them down. We are playing the game a little bit too passive and we are just trying to get the time to run out, and then they scored on us."
Like a hot player at the craps table, the bounces always seem to go in the Golden Knights’ favor.
“I think the last few times we got a bit lucky,” Sbisa said, “but I don’t think that’s going to happen too many more times so we have to learn quick.”