The Vegas Golden Knights take a two-game winning streak to the East Coast where they begin a three-game road trip on Monday night against the New York Rangers.
That’s the good news. The bad news is Vegas, which has won two straight four different times during an up-and-down start to the season, has yet to put together a three-game winning streak.
And if the playoffs were to begin on Sunday, the Golden Knights, in a three-way tie for fourth place in the Pacific Division with Vancouver and Calgary, would be on the outside looking in. However, December has been a good month for Vegas during its short history.
The Golden Knights are a combined 20-4-4 and have racked up 44 points in December, including a memorable 11-1-1 run in their inaugural season in 2017-18 that ended up in the Stanley Cup finals. Vegas is one point behind third place San Jose in the Pacific heading into the month.
“It’s a battle,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said after his team won a 2-1 shootout over second-place Arizona on Friday afternoon. “There are no bad teams in our division, (and) everybody battles.”
The top six teams in the Pacific Division heading into Sunday night’s action were all bunched within five points of each other.
“There’s no bad teams in the NHL, there really isn’t,” Gallant said. “Every team battles every night. I look at the standings one day, and we’re in third or fourth place, and the next day we’re in second to last, so you have to win every night to stay up in the standings. That’s the way it is, and that’s the way it’s going to be all year along. I don’t see any bad teams, and we’re going to have to battle, and it’s going to be right down to the wire, probably.”
Vegas is just 6-6-1 on the road heading into Monday’s contest but started its current win streak with a 4-3 overtime victory at Nashville on Wednesday, a game the team tied on a Max Pacioretty goal with just three-tenths of a second left in regulation. Paul Stastny then potted the game-winner in overtime.
The Golden Knights followed that up with a gritty 2-1 shootout win over Arizona on Friday afternoon, with Alex Tuch scoring his first goal in eight games and capping it off with the game-winner in the shootout.
“It’s big, but going forward, we just have to worry about the next game,” Tuch said. “We can’t look too far ahead.”
New York, which will be playing its eighth game in 13 days, has won four of its last five games and comes in off a 4-0 victory over New Jersey on Saturday. The Rangers won despite taking eight penalties, including five in the second period alone, but ended up coming out on the plus side as both Mika Zibanejad and Jesper Fast scored short-handed goals.
“Certainly not the way you draw up winning a hockey game, taking that many penalties and having that many penalties minutes to kill,” said New York coach David Quinn. “But I’m so proud of our guys. We found a way to win and really gutted it out and stood tall on our penalty kill.”
Alexander Georgiev finished with 33 saves for his third career shutout, and defenseman Jacob Trouba had two assists and played a key role on the penalty kill.
“Every game is not going to perfect,” Trouba said. “That’s what makes a team good, finding a way to win games.”
This will be the first of two meetings between the team over a seven-day span. The Rangers will kick off a four-game western road trip next Sunday in Las Vegas.
–Field Level Media