Jonathan Marchessault admitted he was a bit tired at the morning skate Sunday. But when the lights came on later in the day at T-Mobile Arena, the Vegas Golden Knights forward was hitting on all cylinders.
Marchessault scored in the second period, one-timing a cross-ice pass from Reilly Smith past Jacob Markstrom to give the Knights a 3-1 lead in what would ultimately be a 6-3 victory over Vancouver.
For Marchessault, it was the 100th goal of his NHL career and it was also his 10th of the season. He knew he was closing in on a milestone.
“The last game in Dallas, Smitty told me I was one away (from 100),” he said. “It means a lot to have a milestone like that. This is a hard league to play in and when I look back on how hard I had to work to get here, it’s definitely a good feeling. And the fact it came in a win makes it even better.”
But of more importance for the Knights was the win itself, which came over a Pacific Division foe and in front of a crowd of 18,066. It gave them 41 points and catapulted them into second place, one point behind idle Arizona.
“We played one of our best games of the season,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. “I really liked our second period. We put a lot of pressure on them and got a lot of pucks to the net.”
The Knights used a strong second period to take control after the teams were even at 1-1 following the opening 20 minutes. The Canucks found themselves under constant pressure in their own end and were outshot 19-5 in the middle frame and trailing 4-1 heading into the third period.
Vancouver had an opportunity to get close but Marc-Andre Fleury poke-checked the puck off the stick of Josh Leivo on a breakaway late in the second period to keep it 4-1.
“It was fun to watch,” Fleury said of the middle 20 minutes. “Everyone worked hard and when we do that, we can be pretty good. I was just trying to stay focused.”
It was also a game that saw Valentin Zykov get his first goal of the year and Mark Stone score his first since Nov. 27. Zykov recently was called up to the team after he had served a 20-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance, score on a first-period power play.
Stone’s goal, his 12th of the year which came on a wrist shot that caught the upper right corner 9:16 into the second period, turned out to be the game winner as the goal made it 4-1.
“It’s been a while since I got to celebrate,” Stone said.
Brock Boeser scored 5:02 into the third to cut it to 4-2 but Max Pacioretty beat Markstrom with a backhander on a breakaway to give the Knights back their three-goal advantage midway through the period.
The goal would chase Markstrom from the Vancouver net as rookie Michael DiPietro replaced him for the remaining 9:11. Pacioretty would beat him as well, notching his second of the night and 15th of the year with 41.2 seconds to go on a power play.
For the Canucks, there obviously weren’t a lot of things to feel good about Sunday. But Elias Pettersson’s first-period goal that tied it was a magnificent effort as he corralled the rebound of his own shot and while falling down, swiped at the puck with his backhand and got it past Fleury, who was out of position after making the initial stop.
But for the Knights, who find themselves in a competitive division, anytime you can pick up points from your divisional foes is an added bonus.
“They’re big games,” Gallant said of the four-point swing between his team and Vancouver Sunday. “The guys look at the standings. They know it’s an important game. But we play well within our division and I hope we keep it going.”