Ducks, Golden Knights pick up speed after slow starts

The Vegas Golden Knights and Anaheim Ducks are not off to the kind of start they envisioned heading into the season, but they remain in the thick of a wide-open Pacific Division.

Heading into Tuesday’s games, only five points separated the top six teams — from upstart Vancouver with 22 points (10-7-2) to Arizona (8-7-1) and Edmonton (8-8-1) with 17 points.

Vegas (7-10-1) hosts Anaheim (8-8-3, 19 points) on Wednesday as the seventh-place team with 15 points. In their inaugural season last year, the Golden Knights beat the Ducks in the Western Conference semifinals on their way to a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals against eventual champion Washington.

“I think it’s fortunate for us right now that it is (wide open),” Vegas defenseman Colin Miller told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We know that we haven’t been playing our best and we really need to turn it around if we want to do something this year.”

The Knights have a chance to make up ground with eight of their next 10 games against division opponents, starting against Anaheim, which is coming off a 2-1 shootout victory over Nashville on Monday night.

“I feel like that’s every year. You come out thinking teams are going to do something and they don’t,” defenseman Nick Holden told the Review-Journal. “For us, we were hoping to have a better record than we do right now, but it’s good that we really haven’t played our division a ton, maybe gain some ground once we start playing those teams.”

In the most recent game Sunday, the Knights lost 4-1 in Boston in the 100th regular-season game in franchise history.

They have the second-most victories in league history by a team in its first 100 regular-season games (58-34-8). The Ottawa Senators, who compiled a 63-37 record, had more victories in their first 100 games.

Miller is one of two players to appear in every game for the Knights along with center William Karlsson.

“It’s gone quick,” Miller said. “Looking back now, I don’t think it’s felt like 100 games, but it’s been exciting. Obviously last year was pretty special and this year we’re finding our way a bit. So try to make it a good one.”

Anaheim comes into Vegas full of momentum after handing Nashville only its third loss of the season. The Predators lead the Central Division with 27 points at 13-3-1.

Rickard Rakell scored his first career game-deciding goal in the shootout and improved to 7-for-20 in his career. Pontus Aberg opened the shootout with his first career shootout goal in his second career attempt.

“I had a little plan before I went out there,” Rakell said. “Previous times this year hasn’t really worked for me, so I just tried to throw everything out there. It was really nice to see it go in.

“(Beating the league-leading Predators) was a great test for us, especially playing against those guys. It shows we can play with any team in this league.”

For the Ducks, it was their 10th game allowing two goals or fewer this season. Anaheim ranks tied for second among NHL teams in games allowing two or fewer goals with Vancouver and Nashville. Boston leads with 11 games.

Anaheim was also 7 of 7 on the penalty kill against Nashville. In the last five games, Anaheim has successfully killed 19 of 21 (90.5 percent) opponent power-play opportunities.