Knights try to keep rewriting record book vs. Leafs
LAS VEGAS — A few hours after the Vegas Golden Knights finish playing the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday afternoon, most of the area around T-Mobile Arena on The Strip will be cordoned off so an estimated 300,000 people visiting town will be able to party and ring in 2018.
You could understand if Vegas coach Gerard Gallant and company, however, wouldn’t be too anxious to flip the calendar, especially the month of December.
The Pacific Division-leading Golden Knights (25-9-2) have made a mockery of the term “expansion team” in their inaugural NHL campaign, shredding record after record for a team in its initial season.
Vegas will bring in an NHL expansion team record six-game winning streak — it’s third winning streak of five games or more this season — into the matinee contest with the Maple Leafs (23-14-2), who have had a day to recuperate after losing in overtime at Colorado 4-3 on Friday night.
The Golden Knights are 15-2-1 at T-Mobile Arena, are 10-0-1 in their last 11 games and haven’t lost a contest in regulation since falling at Winnipeg 7-4 on Dec. 1.
“The last month we’ve played unbelievable hockey,” Gallant said. “I like the way we’re competing and playing hard.
“When you win hockey games it’s fun, and that’s what we want to keep doing. We’ve got to keep working hard and get ready for the next game. What’s happened the last month doesn’t matter. It’s what you do in the next month.”
And one thing the Golden Knights haven’t done yet is defeat the Maple Leafs.
The teams have met once back on Nov. 6 in Toronto. Vegas rallied from an early 3-1 deficit to force overtime on a goal by defenseman Deryk Engelland but then lost in the shootout when center Mitch Marner scored in the third round on Maxime Lagace, who is now minding the nets for the Chicago Wolves of the AHL and began the season fourth on the Golden Knights’ depth chart.
Starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who missed two months after suffering a concussion, is back and has allowed six goals over his last four games. Fleury came up with three key saves in crunch time in Vegas’ 3-2 overtime victory at Los Angeles on Thursday night.
“We’ve grown as a group, as a team,” Fleury, who won three Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins before coming to Vegas, said. “Since the start we didn’t just want to surprise people, we wanted to be successful. I’m proud of where this team is right now.”
The contest will mark the end of five straight road games for the Maple Leafs, who are a solid 12-9-2 on the road this season. But only Tampa Bay (16) has more wins than Vegas at home this season where standing room only crowds of more than 18,000 are the norm.
“Obviously they’re a real good team and have done a real nice job,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “They’re outstanding at home. I think they win every night there. We’ve got a day to refresh and get ready to play an early game. It should be fun.”