NEWARK, N.J. — It had already been an eventful day around the Prudential Center long before they ever dropped the puck Tuesday.
But once they dropped the puck, it turned into quite an entertaining evening.
The Vegas Golden Knights railed from a pair of one-goal deficits and got some third-period heroics from Jonathan Marchessault to push them across the finish line in front of the struggling New Jersey Devils, 4-3.
Marchessault registered a natural hat trick, scoring three straight goals in an 8:35 span in the third period which vaulted the Knights from a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead.
It was the fourth straight win for Vegas and second of the Knights’ three-game road trip which concludes Thursday night in Long Island against the New York Islanders.
“I always try to make the right play at the right time,” Marchessault said of what was his eighth goal of the year to complete the hat trick. “On the third goal, I don’t think the goalie knew where the puck was and I was able to get a piece of it.”
Knights coach Gerard Gallant was pleased to see Marchessault get on the scoresheet with his first goals since Nov. 16.
“Marchy’s always hard on himself; he wants to score every time,” Gallant said of Marchessault, who recorded his third career hat trick and second as a member of the Knights (the other came last season vs. Pittsburgh). “He’s played really well the last four games and when he gets that snotty-nose play, going hard to the net, whatever you want to call it, Brendan Gallagher-type plays, he’s been doing that lately so it was good to see him get rewarded.”
Malcom Subban held things together and made 32 saves for his fourth straight win while making his fifth consecutive appearance.
“Subby kept us in there,” Marchessault said. “He made some big saves.”
For the Devils, it was a difficult Tuesday. The team had fired coach John Hynes early in the afternoon following a horrific start. And with just nine wins and coming off a 7-1 drubbing Monday in Buffalo, general manager Ray Shero decided to make a change.
Assistant Alain Nasreddine was named the interim head coach and he had a couple of hours to prepare to deal with the Knights and their newest member, Chandler Stephenson, who was acquired Monday night from the Washington Capitals.
Stephenson was in the lineup, centering the fourth line between Tomas Nosek and Ryan Reaves. He scored the Knights’ first goal 5:24 into the second period and was out there killing penalties. Gallant also had him out on the ice late in the game with the Knights trying to hold off New Jersey.
“I felt more comfortable with each shift,” Stephenson said. “It’s a great group of guys to play with and after playing against them the last couple of years, it’s good to be on their side.”
Gallant said of playing Stephenson down the stretch with the game on the line: “You want to make a player feel comfortable playing for a new team and he scored a huge goal for us tonight. It worked out.”
Normally, the focus would have been on the storylines involving Devils forward Nikita Gusev facing his former team and the Subban brothers —Malcom and P.K. — going head to head.
But not Tuesday. Even the fact the Knights would not see Jack Hughes, the Devils rookie center who was the No. 1 overall draft pick but was out of the lineup, was overshadowed by the news surrounding Hynes’ firing.
Still, from Vegas’ perspective, this was about two points and continuing to build momentum. They were able to secure the points and perhaps they’re turning the corner after a tough November which saw them go 5-6-3.
“I hope so,” Gallant said. “It feels good. We’ve still got a long way to go but it’s definitely going in the right direction right now.
“We had a slow start tonight and once we got our forecheck going and started moving our legs, I thought we were pretty good.”