Vegas stays in playoff hunt with 6-1 win over Arizona
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Brayden McNabb scored a goal and assisted on two others and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Arizona Coyotes 6-1 on Saturday night.
With the win, the Knights moved within two points of third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division. Both Vegas and LA have nine games remaining.
The Knights, who have won six of their last seven, moved into an eighth-place tie with Dallas in the Western Conference, each with 84 points. Dallas, however, has two games in hand.
Zach Whitecloud, Max Pacioretty, Evgenii Dadonov, Jake Leschyshyn and Jack Eichel also scored for Vegas, while Robin Lehner made 29 saves.
“It’s odd I guess; it’s nice,” McNabb said of his first career three-point game. “It’s nice to contribute. Things were working tonight and was able to get some points. But we got the two points, that’s the biggest thing.”
Barrett Hayton scored the lone goal for the Coyotes. Karel Vejmelka stopped 33 shots.
After a pedestrian performance in Wednesday’s 5-1 home loss to Vancouver, 12 skaters registered points for the Golden Knights, who continue to get healthier as they head into a critical stretch of the season.
Rather than being reliant on one or two key goal scorers, or offensive playmakers, Vegas looked like a balanced squad that held the edge in scoring chances, 32-26.
“We haven’t been able to be the four-line team that we want to be because of the injury situation,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “Tonight’s the first night in a long time where we had the bodies to try to play that type of game. We want to be that team, that’s what we have to be, that’s what wins in the playoffs.”
Pacioretty gave a boost to the lineup in his return after missing the last 12 games. He gave Vegas a two-goal lead with his first goal since Feb. 20 at San Jose only 17 seconds after Whitecloud opened the scoring when he skated in from the right point and sent a laser over Vejmelka’s shoulder in the far corner of the goal.
“I’ve come back from a lot of injuries before, so it wasn’t the craziest situation to be in,” Pacioretty said of scoring in his return. “The goal feels good, but at the same time, you’re still wondering how you’re gonna manage the rest of the game. Had a little bit of a lull there in the second, but got better in the third, which is what I’m proud of the most.”
Arizona got on the board later in the period when Hayton skated into the zone with Michael Carcone for an odd-man rush. Carcone sent the puck across the slot and as he was falling down, Hayton beat Lehner to cut Vegas’ lead in half.
It was all the Coyotes would manage, as Lehner had his best performance since returning from a 12-game layoff due to an injury.
“Small steps in the right direction,” Lehner said. “I was a little bit better today. Still a few things. When you’re out for almost, I don’t know, a month, it takes some time. I felt a little bit more calm today. Still a few things I’ve got to keep working on down the stretch.”
Dadonov pushed the lead back to two 40 seconds into the middle period when he took a pass from Shea Theodore, drove in alone and fired at Vejmelka, who appeared to glove the shot. But as it bounced off the top of his mitt, he reached back to snag it and the puck went in.
“We did a lot of good things, loved our start, the early lead,” DeBoer said. “I thought they pushed back a little bit in the first. I thought we regrouped in between the first and the second. I loved our second period. I thought we really grabbed control of the game in the second period with how we played, even though it wasn’t on the scoreboard.”
Instead, Vegas lit up the scoreboard over the final 20 minutes.
McNabb’s blast from the blue line five minutes into the third period pushed Vegas’ lead to 4-1, while Leschyshyn and Eichel added the exclamation points late in the game to provide the final margin.
“That’s one of the best performances from an opponent that we’ve had,” Arizona coach Andre Tourigny said.
NOTES: Playing in his 400th career game, Eichel notched his 150th career goal. Eichel became the 25th active player to score 150 goals in 400 career games. … Phil Kessel’s assist on Hayton’s goal was the 550th of his career.
Arizona: Hosts New Jersey on Tuesday.
Vegas: Opens a three-game road trip in Vancouver on Tuesday.
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