The Tampa Bay Lightning are having one of the best starts to a season in franchise history. While the Vegas Golden Knights are having the best start ever for an expansion team in NHL history.
Heading into tonight’s game there was no one who thought the Vegas Golden Knights would have as good of a record as they have, but they are one of the best home ice teams in the NHL, they own a .844 winning percentage on home ice. That’s the same percentage the Tampa Bay Lightning own at Amalie Arena. Tampa Bay entered tonight’s game having won seven straight games (four at home three on the road.)
After leading the Golden Knights into their inaugural season opener, Marc Andre-Fleury went down with an injury that would cost him nearly two months. Fleury owns a 17-11-4 record against the Lightning. He has a 4-1-1 record to start the season.
The Golden Knights will face a goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy that’s one of the best road goalies this season. Vasilevskiy owns three shutouts this season all three coming on the road away from Amalie Arena. The Lightning netminder also owns a 1.77 goals against average and .944 save percentage this season on the road. All three stats are either tops in the NHL or tied for tops in the NHL.
Feeling out process
In the opening period the Lightning and Golden Knights almost seemed to be feeling each other out having never faced each other. Just over six and a half minutes into the first period Vegas would make their first mistake of the game. Brayden McNabb deep in the defensive zone would wrist the puck trying to clear it, unfortunately for Vegas it went over the glass. McNabb would get two minutes for delay of game, that’s when the Lightning would strike. After a rusty start to the power play, Tampa would get set up in the offensive zone and moments later it would be Steven Stamkos who continues to shine with the man advantage. From the top faceoff circle, Stamkos would rifle a one timer past Fleury for a 1-0 Lightning lead.
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) December 20, 2017
Late in the first period, James Neal would head off for two minutes after slashing Victor Hedman’s stick. Moments later Vlad Namestnikov would get the puck past Fleury for a 2-0 lead. As the referees called the goal McNabb would give Namestnikov a little cheap shot to the ribs.
Same penalty, same result different team
Near the midway point of the second period, Brayden Coburn would make the exact same move McNabb made earlier. Actually, it was almost from the exact same spot as McNabb’s infraction. Coburn would attempt to clear the puck, but it went out of play for a delay of game penalty. While on the power play, James Neal would cut the Lightning’s lead in half 2-1 with a power play goal. It was the second power play for the Golden Knights for the night.
Former Bolt strikes
Late in the second period Jonathan Marchessault would tie the game up late while having the man advantage. The power play goal would be the former Lightning forward’s 12th goal of the season. The Golden Knights would swarm the Lightning throughout the second period. Vegas seemed determined to tie this game up giving the Lightning all they could handle.
Lightning penalty kill falters
The normally strong Lightning penalty kill could find an answer for the Golden Knights power play units. Early in the third period Vegas would once again take advantage of the Lightning going into the penalty box. Following a shot from the point, Erik Haula would get a piece of the shot and tip it past Vasilevskiy for a 3-2 Vegas lead. It would be their first lead of the game.
While the Lightning’s Victor Hedman would tie the game late in the third period, it was the Golden Knights Shea Theodore who would ultimately be the hero of the night. With 02.3 seconds remaining in the game, Theodore would get the puck past Vasilevskiy and give Vegas the best home record in the NHL as well as the win.
Erik Karlsson, Guy Boucher and the Ottawa Senators head to Amalie Arena Thursday night.
Three Stars of the Game
3rd – Victor Hedman: 2 assists and the game tying goal late
2nd – David Perron: Three assists on the night to help lead Vegas.
1st – Shea Theodore: 4 points on the night (Game winning goal and 3 assists)
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