A crowd of just 2,605 in an arena that routinely sees standing audiences of over 18,000 may not seem like a big deal for an NHL team, but the Vegas Golden Knights gave the small but vocal assist a big turnout in their 5 -4. overtime comeback win over the Minnesota Wild on Monday night.
The crowd was the first at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in 363 days thanks to COVID-19 restrictions. A similar turnout is expected Wednesday night when the two teams conclude their consecutive West Division meeting.
Trailing 4-2 going into the third period, the Golden Knights rallied to tie goals from Nicolas Hague and Alex Tuch, the latter with just 41.6 seconds remaining after goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleury was retired by an additional attacker.
Max Pacioretty then scored the winner with Mark Stone’s fifth primary assist of the game within two minutes of overtime to give Vegas their first comeback win in a third period of the regular season from a multi-goal deficit.
The Golden Knights did not register a shot on goal in the first 11:35 of the final period, but, encouraged by the small crowd, they had the final 12 shots of the game capped by Pacioretty’s second goal of the night at the end of a career of 2 against 1 with Stone.
“It was electric,” said Tuch, a former Wild first-round pick. “Obviously it had limited capacity, but it felt like a complete building. The crowd was really interested, it felt like they were on top of us. They gave us the momentum to come back and win the game.”
“That was the story of the game,” added Las Vegas coach Peter DeBoer. “Just having them in the building, the energy … They were a big part of what we did in third period. I think the guys wanted to make sure they went away with a win.”
The victory allowed Vegas to stay in first place in the West by one point over St. Louis and two points ahead of Minnesota. The Wild had a six-game win streak, tied for longest in the NHL this season, interrupted.
Stone became the first player to record five primary assists in a game since Artemi Panarin did so on Dec. 8, 2017, while playing for the Columbus Blue Jackets, according to NHL public relations. Stone now has 18 assists in 18 games and 22 points. No other Las Vegas player has scored more than 16 points this season.
“That’s why he’s the captain,” Tuch said. “He comes in every day and shows up with that work ethic and that enthusiasm.”
Although his team’s winning streak came to an end, Minnesota coach Dean Evason was optimistic afterward.
“Obviously they are a good team,” Evason said. “They clearly pushed hard. We were on our heels a little bit. The momentum changed a bit. It happens in a game. We’ve been on the other side, but tonight it was the other way around … I thought we played a really good game.”
“I think we just blew it off a bit,” said forward Marcus Foligno, who scored two goals and one assist during a four-goal second period for the Wild.
“Give credit to their top line, they made good plays, they didn’t contribute, they did a good job carrying the puck and keeping the pressure on. But we’re still a good enough team to hold tracks like that and get the win.”
Forward Ryan Hartman, who left Monday’s game with a lower body injury, will miss Wednesday’s game, according to Evason.
– Field level media
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.