Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018 | 8:21 p.m.
The team that hasn’t been able to score all season finally could on Thursday night.
The Vegas Golden Knights enjoyed a long-awaited offensive eruption against the Ottawa Senators, winning 5-3 to snap a streak of three straight losses on the road. The five goals were a season-high, as the Golden Knights had only reached four goals in regulation once through their first 15 games.
“Shoot the puck and keep it simple — that’s what we did tonight,” Golden Knights Coach Gerard Gallant said afterwards on AT&T Sports Net.
Vegas came into the game not only ranked second-to-last in the NHL with 33 total goals but also dead-last in power play percentage after only converting on six of 51 attempts. It will get a boost in that category after scoring on its first two chances with a man advantage in the first period against the Senators.
First, Jonathan Marchessault strode down the right side of the ice and received a pass from Colin Miller that he snuck past Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson. Four minutes later, Shea Theodore scorched one by Anderson from the blue line off of an assist from William Karlsson.
Gallant reconfigured both power-play lines going into the game, and gave the special teams units extra attention in practice after a 3-1 loss Tuesday in Toronto.
“It’s the same stuff we’ve been doing all year, but I think there was just a little more emphasis yesterday in practice on hitting the net,” Gallant said.
After addressing the power-play shortcomings, Vegas improved in another area of concern — getting offense from its defensemen. The Golden Knights doubled its season total in goals by defenseman when Nick Holden joined Theodore on the scoring sheet by weaving in and out of traffic through the slot before scoring at 17:21 of the second period.
The game went awry from there. Ottawa answered the third goal in 29 seconds, when Matt Duchene crossed over Brad Hunt and scored right in front of Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
The comeback continued to start the third period, as Ottawa stayed aggressive and got behind the defense on loose pucks to lead to scores from Ryan Dzingel and Thomas Chabot.
“We had a little bit of a lull there,” Holden said, “but I feel like we came back strong.”
They came back behind a familiar source — the overachieving fourth line of William Carrier, Ryan Reaves and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Carrier scored the game-winning goal, with assists to Reaves and Bellemare, about a minute after Chabot tied it.
Bellemare added another goal for good measure three minutes later. Ottawa challenged Bellemare’s score for goalie interference, but it was determined that Anderson tripped Carrier to lead to the contact.
Reaves finished a team-high plus-2 in plus/minus, and was involved in another highlight of the night when he fought Matt Borowiecki in retaliation for a dirty hit the Ottawa defenseman dished to Cody Eakin last month.
“You don’t want to call them a fourth line because of how much they bring to our team,” Holden said. “It’s every shift for those guys. You know what you’re getting out of them.”
The Golden Knights hope they can get a similar offensive showing in a back-to-back stretch against Montreal and Boston on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, to end their road trip. Ottawa ranks first in the NHL in goals allowed, so it could be difficult to maintain against increased competition.
But the Golden Knights believe that if they follow Thursday’s blueprint, their scoring struggles will become a thing of the past.
“It was huge for the team,” Bellemare said.