Smith hits jackpot in Vegas with hat trick, Bruins win 5-2
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Craig Smith scored three goals and the Boston Bruins beat the Vegas Golden Knights 5-2 on Thursday night.
It was Smith’s third career hat trick and second with the Bruins. It’s the third consecutive season he’s recorded a hat trick and it marked the first time he netted three goals in a road game.
“Anytime you can pop three it’s great,” Smith said. “It’s great here, and obviously road wins are huge, too, and special with the team. But anytime you can get three you’ll take them.”
The Bruins improved to 4-1-0 on their six-game road trip, and 9-3-2 in their last 14 away from home. Overall they’ve won six of their last seven games as they inch closer to third-place Toronto in the Atlantic Division.
David Pastrnak scored twice for Boston, and Jeremy Swayman stopped 34 shots.
Pastrnak’s 23 goals since Jan. 1 lead the NHL. In that same span, the Bruins have the second-most points with 40, behind Colorado.
Boston got points from eight different skaters, including a total of seven points from the third line of Smith (3), Trent Frederic (3) and Charlie Coyle (1).
“That’s why our record is what it is I think this stretch of games because we’ve got different people involved,” coach Bruce Cassidy said.
Vegas, meanwhile, lost for the sixth time in eight games and continues to miss offensive stars Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. The Golden Knights have been held to two or fewer goals in five of those games.
“We’ve got some guys in some extended slumps,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “When you’ve got Pacioretty and Stone out of the lineup, you can’t have multiple guys going double-digit games without chipping in a goal.”
Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchessault scored for Vegas, and Robin Lehner made 31 saves.
After beginning the season with a .917 save percentage, 13th-best in the NHL among goaltenders with 10 starts through Nov. 18, Lehner is tied for 39th with a .900 save percentage since then.
The Golden Knights failed to score a power-play goal for the fifth consecutive game and 12th time in 14 contests. Since Jan. 24, they rank last in the NHL with a 6.1% power-play conversion rate.
“There’s no hiding from the fact that we have to get a power-play goal,” DeBoer added.
And while Boston didn’t score on its lone power-play opportunity, it didn’t have trouble putting the puck in the net.
As Vegas’ Ben Hutton had the puck poked free while he entered the neutral zone, the Bruins immediately went into attack mode in transition. Frederic fed Smith, who beat Lehner from the slot for his first goal in 12 games to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
Boston once again took advantage of a Vegas mishap, this time midway through the second period. Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb and forward William Karlsson collided behind the net, leaving Smith alone to snag Coyle’s pass at the backdoor and catch Lehner out of position.
Smith scored his third goal of the game in the third when he smoked a shot from the left circle after Lehner was spun around by teammate Zach Whitecloud and left out of position.
Eichel ignited the relatively quiet crowd of 18,109 in the second period when he broke free alone into the zone and deked several times before accidentally leaving the puck off a forehand to float under Swayman’s pads and cut the lead in half.
Pastrnak scored twice in the third, early in the period off his own rebound and an empty-netter to provide the final margin.
Marchessault scored his 22nd goal with Lehner pulled late in the third.
NOTES: McNabb left in the second period. DeBoer said McNabb was being evaluated and getting X-rays for what appeared to be an injury to his hand. … Boston forward Tomas Nosek returned to T-Mobile Arena for the first time since signing with the Bruins in the offseason. Nosek, who spent the past four seasons with Vegas after starting his career in Detroit, was greeted with a tribute video in the first period.
Bruins: Play at Columbus on Saturday.
Golden Knights: Play at Anaheim on Friday.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports