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December 15, 2018

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Analysis: Golden Knights’ top line produces in win at Edmonton

VGK vs. Oilers, 2018

Jason Franson / The Canadian Press via AP

Vegas Golden Knights celebrate a goal against Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot, left, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Edmonton, Alberta.

The Golden Knights scored a season-high in goals tonight against the Edmonton Oilers, including a short-handed goal from Cody Eakin in a 6-3 victory.

Eakin’s goal was the first of five unanswered for Vegas, who used two goals from Jonathan Marchessault and eight points from the top line in the win.

That was only part of the encouraging news, as defenseman Nate Schmidt made his season debut after sitting out the first 20 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. He did not score but was a plus-1 on the night.

Here are three observations from the win:

The Golden Knights are at their best when the top line produces

In addition to his two goals, Marchessault had a gorgeous feed to lead Reilly Smith to a goal. Smith had a goal and two assists, and William Karlsson had a goal and an assist. The trio racked up 213 points in 226 games last season, but had tallied only 36 in 60 games coming into Sunday. The first line's struggles have contributed to Vegas' slow start, but the three had one of their best games of the season Sunday.

Nate Schmidt back to big role

Any thoughts that the Golden Knights would slowly bring along Schmidt into the lineup were put to bed early. Paired on the second unit with Shea Theodore, Schmidt took 11 shifts for 6:32 of ice time in the first period. He finished with 9:38 of ice time, which was third on the team. He showed right away what the team was missing. In the second period, Schmidt poked the puck away from the Oilers and created an odd-man rush for Vegas before he was caught from behind. Coach Gerard Gallant has mentioned repeatedly in practice that he wants the team to play fast, and Schmidt’s return will help get that going.

Eakin’s strong November continues

Eakin jump-started the Vegas offense by intercepting a neutral zone pass and walking in to score short-handed in the second period, and was positioned for a tap-in had it not gone off an Edmonton skate and into the net. It was his sixth game in the last seven with at least one point, and his fifth goal nine November games. It brought his total to eight goals in 18 games for the season, three shy of his total from 80 games last year.

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