Robin Lehner slams door shut on Devils

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Two quality goaltenders who can be a No. 1 on any given evening?

That’s a nice problem for Vegas Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer to have.

While everyone knows of Marc-Andre Fleury’s prowess, it may have taken a bit of convincing for the 18,290 at T-Mobile Arena to realize that Robin Lehner’s no slouch. The man nicknamed “The Panda” was tremendous Tuesday, turning aside 27 shots as the Knights downed the New Jersey Devils 3-0 to remain in first place in the Pacific Division with 82 points, two ahead of the Edmonton Oilers.

“I’m getting a little more comfortable,” said Lehner, who was sporting new pads in the Knights’ colors after playing his previous start for Vegas in his Chicago Blackhawks gear. “The more time I spend with the guys in practice and in the games, the better I’ll be.”

Vegas ended its four-game homestand 3-1 and have won nine of its last 10.

The Knights capitalized in the beginning of the second and third periods on goals from Max Pacioretty and William Karlsson.

Karlsson set up Pacioretty’s 31st of the year 45 seconds into the second period with a no-look, backhand cross-ice pass that landed right on Pacioretty’s stick down the left side. He snapped his shot past Mackenzie Blackwood. 

With the third period just getting underway, Karlsson was the recipient of a backhand pass, this one from Nic Roy. Karlsson beat Blackwood from close range 37 seconds in to give Vegas a 2-0 lead. For Karlsson, it was his 15th of the year and the 100th of his NHL career.

“It’s nice,” Karlsson said of the milestone. “I knew I was close but hopefully there’ll be a lot more.”

Karlsson’s assist to set up Pacioretty may have been the more impressive play.

“I didn’t see him but I heard him yell for the puck,” Karlsson said. “Fortunately I hit him in stride and he scored a big goal.”

Ryan Reaves added some insurance at the 8:49 mark of the third, stuffing home a rebound for his eighth of the season and a 3-0 lead.

Lehner took care of the rest. He was excellent from the first shot, robbing Travis Zajac with a great glove save 35 seconds into the game. He came up big during a couple of New Jersey power plays in the second period and with his defense playing well in front of him, he recorded his first shutout of the year and 15th of his career.

“I didn’t want to let the first shot in two games in a row,” Lehner said, referring to the goal he surrendered on his first shot faced against Buffalo in his Golden Knights debut last Friday. “It definitely settled me down and got me focused.”

Do the Knights suddenly have a goalie controversy? Not in DeBoer’s mind.

“It’s tough but it’s a luxury,” DeBoer said of having two quality goalies capable of starting every game. “In the new NHL, it’s trending toward more rest and you need as much depth as possible. It’s a nice problem to have.”

DeBoer was also pleased to see Karlsson start to find the back of the net.

“Will’s gotten better every game,” he said of Karlsson, who has five goals in his last five games. He’s making plays and the puck’s starting to go in for him. I think he’s closer and closer to the player we’ve seen around here the last two years.”

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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