After the Arizona Coyotes carried much of the early play, the Vegas Golden Knights came through in the end, winning 4-2 on Monday.
Golden Knights turn it on down the stretch against the Coyotes
In just about any comeback in the NHL, you must mull over a chicken-and-the-egg debate. How much of that rally came down to the trailing team playing better — and desperate — hockey? On the other hand, did the leading team get too conservative? (Safe can be death.)
You can ask those sorts of questions following the Golden Knights’ rally against the Coyotes.
With 15:03 remaining in the second period, the Coyotes generated a 20-8 shots on goal advantage over the Golden Knights. The Coyotes were giving the Golden Knights fits with their speed and tenacity (more on that in a moment).
So, did the Golden Knights just flip the switch? If they did, then opponents should do their best to lull Vegas into longer sleep cycles.
At one point, the Golden Knights trailed the Coyotes by a score of 2-0. This funky Max Pacioretty goal turned the tide:
From that point on, Vegas started rolling. The Golden Knights carried the play to open the third period, allowing Vegas to flex its muscles. Jonathan Marchessault redeemed himself for a foolish penalty by creating some havoc, then William Karlsson made an unconscious, beautiful pass to Reilly Smith to tie it up 2-2.
(Luxuriate in that Karlsson pass. Yow.)
Much like with the Pacioretty goal, there was a mix between sheer luck and making your own luck with the 3-2 goal. The Golden Knights were lucky Chandler Stephenson was in position for the puck to bounce off of him and past Darcy Kuemper. But he was there, and they made the play.
In some ways, Reilly Smith’s empty-netter epitomized this game. It was a great effort for Vegas, but there was some good fortune involved, too.
For yet another game, the Golden Knights trailed against a former-Pacific-now-West Division opponent. They eked out a win against the Ducks, and did the same against the Coyotes on Monday.
A different breed of Coyotes?
Look, plenty of NHL teams settle for “turtle mode.” When you can counterattack and ride hot goaltending, it’s a viable strategy.
Considering how strong Darcy Kuemper has been during the past two seasons, and all of the off-ice turbulence for the Coyotes, would it be that shocking to see them go into a shell, especially against the Golden Knights?
Again, maybe you could argue they stepped off of the gas with that 2-0 lead. But the Coyotes still were the aggressors for most of Monday’s game. Sometimes shockingly so.
And the Coyotes have been showing some scoring touch and zest early on. While the Sharks handed the Coyotes a heartbreaker in their opener, Phil Kessel & Co. thought they deserved more. They were rewarded for their efforts in that second game vs. the Sharks, winning 5-3.
It’s early. It’s easy to overreact. So far, though, this is a promising sign for a Coyotes team that was tough to watch at times last season.
Golden Knights – Coyotes have just begun
It’s worth noting that, at times, Robin Lehner kept Vegas from falling behind too far. As various New York Jets might say, the Coyotes can build on this.
With all of that in mind, the next week should be fascinating for both teams. This Golden Knights win began a four-game series against the Coyotes, so they’ll battle three more times. Can Arizona perform at a similar level, only get some wins — or at least points? Or will they see their efforts squandered against a team that’s more impressive on paper? We’ll find out, and the answers will come soon.
Either way, that was a very fun game to watch.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.