Karlsson keys Golden Knights’ fast start vs. Kings
LAS VEGAS — The Los Angeles Kings made their first regular-season visit to Las Vegas on Sunday night, but Vegas Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant wasn’t about to declare his team’s 4-2 victory before a record crowd of 18,211 at T-Mobile Arena a milestone for his surprising expansion team.
“Maybe for you guys but not for me,” Gallant said after Vegas moved to within one point of the Kings for first place in the Pacific Division. “I’m pretty happy we won tonight because we’re one point out of first place and we’re battling hard and we’re trying to win as many games as we can. To me it didn’t matter if it was L.A. or Phoenix or whoever we played tonight. It’s just about playing another team and getting another two points.”
No doubt some in the standing-room-only crowd who call the 702 area code home probably would disagree, especially since many in the crowd were chanting “Go Kings Go” at the start of the game.
Vegas’ William Karlsson, who scored two first-period goals, quickly quieted those chants. After winning a faceoff in his own end, he raced down the left side, took a pass from Reilly Smith and rifled a shot through the pads of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to give the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead just 55 seconds into the contest.
“Kind of lucky,” Karlsson said. “He’s probably not too happy to let that one in, but I’ll take that any day. I was happy to see it go in.”
“That was huge,” Vegas defenseman Deryk Engelland added. “Any time you can get an early one, you get the guys going, get the crowd into it. It’s a big boast, and guys feed off of it.”
Boy did they.
Center Cody Eakin made it 2-0 when he wristed a shot over Quick’s left shoulder to finish a two-on-one rush with winger Brendan Leipsic. Then Karlsson made it 3-0 after just 11:22 when he converted a pass from Smith, who snuck in to steal the puck from Quick behind the net.
Quick, who entered the game with a 9-6-1 record and a 2.31 goals-against average, was pulled after surrendering three goals on nine shots. It was the fifth straight game he has lost in net.
“Those are pucks that he’d like to have back,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “It’s a team game. Johnny has bailed us out many a night. That’s certainly not the start we wanted. You dig a hole against any team, especially in here, it’s tough to come back, but I thought the guys did. I thought they dug in. I thought they got going.”
Gallant said of Quick, “He’s one of the best goalies if not the best goalie in the NHL. He battles and competes. They made a change and (Darcy) Kuemper came in and played a real solid game the rest of the way.”
The Kings cut it to 3-1 midway through the second period when Alex Iafallo stole the puck at the blue line and fed Trevor Lewis breaking free in front of the net. Lewis then deked Vegas goalie Maxime Lagace for his sixth goal of the season.
Tanner Pearson made it 3-2 at the 11:45 mark of the third period when he fired in an Adrian Kempe pass from the slot for his fourth goal of the season.
The Kings (12-7-2) then pulled Kuemper, who had 30 saves in relief of Quick, with 1:22 to go but did not get a shot off before Eakin stole the puck and fed Alex Tuch, who sealed the win with the empty-net goal.
Lagace had 27 saves to pick up his second straight win, helping the Golden Knights (12-6-1) improve to 8-1-0 at home.
NOTES: Vegas G Malcolm Subban, out since sustaining a lower-body injury on Oct. 21 against St. Louis and activated on Nov. 17, dressed for the game but watched from the bench as Maxime Lagace made his 10th straight start. ... The Kings return to action on Wednesday night against the Winnipeg Jets at the Staples Center. Vegas, meanwhile, also heads to southern California on Wednesday to play the Anaheim Ducks. ... D Oscar Fantenberg and C Brooks Laich were the Kings’ scratches, while the Golden Knights scratched D Jon Merrill and C Oscar Lindberg.