It’s one of those weird occurrences that no one can truly account for.
It seems that whoever makes their debut for the Vegas Golden Knights scores a goal. Wednesday, it was Nick Cousins, who scored in the third period in his first game after being acquired in a trade Monday from Montreal. The second-chance backhander helped give the Knights some cushion in what would be a 3-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers in front of 18,421 at T-Mobile Arena.
The goal, sandwiched between Max Pacioretty’s 30th of the season which came in the first period and Shea Theodore’s 10th midway through the final 20 minutes gave the Knights their seventh straight and kept them atop the Pacific Division with 78 points, four in front of the Oilers and Vancouver.
While it was a special night for the newest Knight, it was also a big evening for one of the original Knights as goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots. He was simply spectacular and he did it against one of the NHL’s better offenses led by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
“Exceptional. He was dialed in,” Knights coach Peter DeBoer said of Fleury, who recorded his 61st career shutout. “That’s vintage Flower. We don’t get out of the first period unless he plays the way he does. He was our best player late in the last 10 minutes when we had some breakdowns. He was fantastic.”
Fleury said when everyone is doing their job the way the Knights currently are, it make his job easier. It also didn’t hurt when McDavid hit the crossbar in the first period and Draisaitl hit the left post in the third.
“The way our team has been playing, I think we’ve been more consistent, not giving up more scoring chances, and that makes me look better,” Fleury said. “It’s always about the team game.”
And while Fleury was the biggest story, Cousins’ debut was not far behind. He had traveled from Montreal to Las Vegas Wednesday morning and did not skate in the morning. He didn’t know how much he would play or with who. But he made the most of his 12:09 time on ice and his third-period goal which came on the power play gave the Knights an important cushion.
“In the first period there, my head was spinning a little bit with all the travel and stuff like that and just trying to get accustomed to everything,” said Cousins, who became the 10th player in Golden Knights history to score in his team debut and sixth this season, joining Cody Glass, Nic Roy, Chandler Stephenson, Alec Martinez and Patrick Brown. “I thought in the second period, as the game went on, I started moving my feet, started making a little more plays and hanging on to the puck a little bit more. And when I do that, that’s when I’m at my best.”
DeBoer started Cousins as a wing the third line, then moved him to center on the fourth line and that’s when things started to happen for him.
“I wanted to get his legs moving,” DeBoer said. “He had a long day, and I didn’t feel that in the first period playing on the wing he was getting around the ice enough. I just wanted to free him up a bit and get his legs moving. They went out there and turned one good shift into two or three and brought us some real energy.