Golden Knights seek revenge versus Rangers (Jan 07, 2018)
LAS VEGAS -- The Vegas Golden Knights conclude the first half of their inaugural season with a Sunday night home game with the New York Rangers. And it's fair to say Gerard Gallant's surprising squad heads into the final game before a six-day break playing with some house money.
No matter what the outcome against the Rangers, Vegas (28-10-2) will hit the halfway point leading the Western Conference in points. The Golden Knights, who are 17-2-1 at T-Mobile Arena, will also have the most home wins of any team in the NHL. And their eight-game winning streak, which was snapped with a 2-1 loss at St. Louis on Thursday night, is tied for the longest in the NHL this season.
But one thing Vegas doesn't have this season is a win over the Rangers, who won their only previous meeting 6-4 on Halloween night at Madison Square Garden.
Vegas, playing with fourth-string goalie Maxime Lagace because of injuries to starter Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion), and backups Malcolm Subban (lower-body injury) and Oscar Dansk (lower-body injury), led that one 4-2 heading into the third period. But David Perron was whistled for a double-minor that Chris Kreider scored on to cut it to 4-3 and jumpstart a four-goal third period for the Rangers that included a game-winning goal by Mika Zibanejad with 5:39 left.
Afterward, Gallant, known for being a straight shooter, openly criticized his team's play for one of the few times this season.
"Until (Perron's) penalty, we were in control of the game and playing well," Gallant said. "The rest of the period we looked like an expansion team."
Boom. Anyone who has been around the Vegas locker room knows nothing hurts the players than to be reminded they are a squad of castoffs, players who were made available to be part of an expansion draft.
Vegas has gone 20-7-2 since that loss, including an amazing 13-1-1 in its last 15 games. The Golden Knights bounced back from Thursday's tough loss in St. Louis -- goalie Carter Hutton had 32 saves including two tough stops in the third period to help the Blues hold on -- to win at Chicago 5-4 on Friday night.
"It's huge," Reilly Smith, who had three points and scored the game-winner on a breakaway with 5:07 remaining, said. "It's usually tough on that second game of a back-to-back. It's nice to get the win now and get back to .500 for the trip."
The Rangers (22-14-5) will be playing their second game in a 27-hour span on the second half of a back-to-back that started with a 2-1 shootout win at Arizona on Saturday night.
Zibanejad scored the game-winner in the first round of the shootout. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist had 38 saves and then stopped all three shots in the shootout to notch his 424th career victory, passing Tony Esposito (423) for eighth place on the NHL's all-time victory list.
"We are going to play against one of the better home teams in the league," Lungqvist, who has started 35 of the New York's 41 games in net, said of Vegas. "A confident group. I remember the game in New York. They're a really fast, skilled team and if you're not careful they're going to make you pay. Quick turnaround and we need all-in tomorrow."
New York played Saturday without two of its top six scorers in forward Mats Zuccarello, who missed his first game of the season because of illness, and Kreider, who will be out indefinitely because of surgery to resect a rib. Zuccarello leads the team in scoring (31 points) and assists (23) while Kreider is sixth with 22 points, including 11 goals.