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June 24, 2019

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Golden Knights finding ways to win, playing best hockey of season

The Golden Knights have won eight of nine games since the trade deadline deal last month to acquire Mark Stone

Knights-Oilers 2019

Isaac Brekken / Associated Press

Vegas Golden Knights center Jonathan Marchessault (81) scores a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, March 17, 2019, in Las Vegas.

VGK Defeat Edmonton Oilers, 6-3

Vegas Golden Knights center Jonathan Marchessault (81) scores a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during the second period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, March 17, 2019, in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said he prefers tight, defensive games like Friday’s 2-1 win in Dallas as opposed to the high-flying affairs that make goalie coaches cringe.

Sunday’s 6-3 win fits firmly into the latter category, though Gallant didn’t seem too upset after Vegas knocked off the Edmonton Oilers at T-Mobile Arena.

“I loved the way we played,” he said. “We played an excellent game tonight. We played fast, we played our game.”

Whether it’s having years of defensive-minded hockey pounded into their brains or genuine love for the art of a low-scoring game, players intrinsically defer to preferring the 2-1 wins to their 6-3 counterparts. Playing strong defensively is the mark of a championship team, the thinking goes, so high-scoring games must be the opposite.

Jonathan Marchessault scored twice Sunday. Yet, he said they “weren’t necessarily happy” with their third six-goal outburst in their last eight games.

“I’d rather a 2-1 game honestly,” Marchessault said. “Tonight we opened up a little bit too much the play and they were able to get three goals with our mistakes.”

The Golden Knights took advantage of an Oilers team on the second part of back-to-back games, and whose goalie was porous and whose skaters couldn’t handle Vegas’ relentless forecheck. That aggressiveness paid of late, as the Golden Knights had a three-goal third period in pulling away, including unanswered goals by Brayden McNabb and Alex Tuch to close the scoring.

“Winning 2-1 is pretty sweet, but scoring six goals is also pretty sweet,” said William Karlsson, who had two assists on the night. “It’s a different feeling, but both sweet victories.”

It would be easy to argue that Vegas should have won by a far greater margin. They were dominant at 5-on-5, holding advantages over the Oilers in shots on goal (34-19) Corsi (58-32), scoring chances (40-13) and high-danger scoring chances (18-6).

The Oilers are seven points out of a playoff spot, and Edmonton fans shudder to think where they’d be without captain Connor McDavid, who helped neutralize Vegas’ possession advantages, for a while anyway. McDavid had two assists on the night, one on the power play and one at even strength. The Oilers generated more shot attempts (18) while he was on the ice for his game-high 22:43 than anyone else, though Vegas still had 24 shot attempts against him.

The Golden Knights have won eight of nine games since the trade deadline deal last month to acquire Mark Stone, whose scored his first Vegas goal at T-Mobile in the first period to open the scoring. Vegas is playing its best hockey of the year, and winning in all sorts of ways, either high-flying or low-scoring. It hasn’t mattered.

“I just feel like the machine is going,” Karlsson said. “I think we play very confident and that shows on the ice.”

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