Knights finding winning formula

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Peter DeBoer has been the coach of the Vegas Golden Knights for just over a month. And while the transition may have started out awkwardly, both coach and players appear to have found a synergy.

Playing both ends of the ice, being responsible in their own end and winning the battles in front of both goals are getting results for the Knights. Monday’s 3-2 President’s Day matinee win at T-Mobile Arena over the high-octane Washington Capitals was the latest display of doing enough things right.  

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The Knights jumped out to a 3-0 lead, saw the Caps climb back in it on a pair of third-period goals from T.J. Oshie, then held firm when they had to down the stretch as Washington ratcheted up the pressure.

“We bent but we didn’t break,” DeBoer said. “I think our group is gaining confidence.”

It was Vegas’ third straight win on this five-game homestead which continues Thursday when red-hot Tampa Bay comes to town riding a 10-game winning streak. The Knights, who have 70 points, are tied with Edmonton for first place in the Pacific Division though the Oilers have two games in hand.

“I think everyone’s buying in and working hard,” said Reilly Smith, who continued his stellar play with his 23rd goal of the year late in the first period to give the Knights a 2-0 lead after Nick Holden got things started 3:43 into the match. “We know every game counts and it’s good to get on a little roll at this time of the year.”

Holden, who has been encouraged by deBoer to join the rush, as has been the case with all the Knights’ defensemen, said it’s just a matter of trusting one another and trusting the coach.

“I think there was that period of adjustment everybody goes through,” Holden said. “But you see how comfortable everyone is right now. We playing better in our own end and we’re forechecking and attacking harder in the other team’s end.”

The biggest change appears when things get a bit hairy in front of the net. When it’s in the Vegas end, the defensemen and forwards are doing a much better job of helping the goaltender, which on Monday, was Marc-Andre Fleury.

At the other end, the Knights are getting more traffic in front of the other team’s goalie and they’re getting better chances as a result. All three of their goals (Holden’s, Smith’s and Max Pacioretty’s second-period tally, were all close to Brayden Holtby’s net.

“We’re getting to those dirty areas more,” DeBoer said. “We’re competing in front of the net better and it’s paying off for us.”

Coming in, the lion’s share of the attention was on one man — Washington’s Alex Ovechkin — who was two goals shy of 700 for his career. But Ovechkin was kept off the scoresheet and it was another “O” — Oshie — who managed to light the lamp twice.

That was all the Caps would get off of Fleury, who was wearing his gold pads that got him a 1-0 shutout Saturday over the New York Islanders and donuts for the VGK fans. There were no donuts Monday but Fleury made 24 saves for the win.

“I’m sure he’ll get it soon,” Fleury said of Ovechkin’s quest for 700 (he had seven shot attempts Monday, including four shots on goal). “I’m just happy I won’t be the goalie on SportsCenter 48 times showing that goal.” 

About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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