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Some nights, you’re not going to have your ‘A’ game and you still find a way to win.

Such was the case Saturday as the Golden Knights rallied late from a 1-0 deficit to defeat the Anaheim Ducks 2-1 in overtime at T-Mobile Arena to start the 2021 season 2-0.

Max Pacioretty won the faceoff to start OT which led to a 2-on-1. Mark Stone fed it back to Pacioretty on the right side and Pacioretty beat John Gibson just seven seconds into the five-minute session for the winner. It was the fastest OT goal in the four-year history of the Golden Knights franchise.  

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“I definitely need to take more faceoffs,” Pacioretty said with a laugh. “It wasn’t exactly how we drew it up but it worked out.” 

Stone said: “They really cheated off the draw and we were fortunate to take advantage of it.”

You had to expect a heightened effort from the Ducks following their 5-2 opening-night loss to the Knights Thursday. Sure enough, the Ducks played with a lot more grit, even though it took them a while to get out of first gear Saturday.

The visitors from Southern California hoped to leave town with a split on an evening which saw the Knights debut their gold jerseys and have veteran Marc-Andre Fleury start in goal. The jerseys looked sharp. The Knights? Not so much.

But down 1-0 and with Fleury pulled for an extra attacker, William Karlsson tied it with 1:22 to play to eventually force OT.

“I really liked our start,” Knights coach Peter DeBoer said. “We could have had two or three and it allowed them to get a push. “I thought Flower was great, As good as Gibson was early, Flower was great late to give us a chance.”

Once again, DeBoer opted to play with just five defensemen instead of the usual six and this time, it appeared to be a factor. The entire quintet looked off their collective game and Alex Pietrangelo, the team’s major off-season acquisition, still appears to be finding a rhythm and a comfort level with his new teammates.

There were communication breakdowns. There were turnovers. There were odd-man rushes for the Ducks when Vegas defensemen got caught up ice, including Anaheim’s lone goal when Zach Whitecloud found him defending what became a 3-on-1 which resulted in Max Comtois beating Fleury. Comtois scored both of the Ducks’ goals Thursday so he’s off to a great start.

And once the Ducks took the lead, they kept it thanks to clogging the neutral zone, not giving the Knights room to break out and forcing them into long passes, many of which missed the mark.

Fleury? He was excellent. He came up big on several occasions and he deserved to get the win, which was the 467th of his career, making 21 saves. But he was on the bench for the extra attacker and Karlsson bailed out the team with his first of the year, a wrist shot from in front that got by Gibson, who faced 33 shots and stopped all but two. 

“It was nice to be able to fist-bump the guys from the bench,” Fleury said after Karlsson tied it. “It was a close game but I felt the guys had confidence in me and if I can make those big saves to keep the game close, that’s good.”

He was referring to the stop on Rickard Rakell in the third period where he got across the crease and got Rakell’s shot that appeared ticketed for the upper corner.

“I just tried to get there as quickly as possible and get a piece of it,” Fleury said of the biggest of his 21 stops Saturday.

The Knights will host Arizona Monday in another set of back-to-back games. They will also play the Coyotes on Wednesday.

“I liked our game better tonight than we did in game one despite the score,” he said. “I thought we created more and we cleaned up some things.

“We have a veteran group and we’ve been in these frustrating situations before where the goalie is hot. I thought we showed great composure and we found a way. You look around the league, it’s really hard to sweep in this kind of format.”

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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