Golden Knights beat Devils 3-1 in St. Patrick’s Day matinee

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY
The Golden Knights found a pot of gold on St. Patrick's Day, beating the Devils 3-1 for two crucial points.

LAS VEGAS–The Golden Knights found two points under the rainbow on Sunday, beating the Devils 2-1 in a St. Patrick’s Day matinee game that was nationally televised on TNT. The Knights moved to 36-24-7 with the win and are now back tied with the Kings for third place in the Pacific Division at 79 points.

“It was a big win for us. We needed it,” Jack Eichel said after the game. “I think it’s an understatement to say that it was a much needed win,  just in terms of the way that it went and the persistence of the team.

The Devils entered the game on the second half of a back-to-back and their third game in four days on their current Western swing. The Knights entered in a much better predicament in terms of rest, having not played since Thursday’s loss in Calgary.

Still, if you’ve been following this team at all lately, you know as well as I do that whether the Knights win or lose depends on if the boys even bothered showing up to the rink on that given day or night. And until last week, they weren’t doing a whole lot of that.

Now, they’ve won three of their last four games. And no, they haven’t been pretty wins. Not even close. But this isn’t a pretty hockey team. The fact they’ve managed to get six points out of their last four outings despite that is a testament to some newfound fight this group seems to be pulling out when it’s starting to really count.

Zach Whitecloud and Nic Hague were both healthy scratches for the Golden Knights on Sunday. In a corresponding decision, Alec Martinez was activated off IR and Ben Hutton was added to the lineup. Presumably to add what Bruce Cassidy and Knights fans alike would hope to be a much needed defensive boost for a team that has struggled on that end of the ice besides what they’ve gotten from Alex Pietrangelo, and the few games they’ve gotten out of Noah Hanifin so far since his acquisition from Calgary.

“Well, first of all, I thought they played well.” said Bruce Cassidy. “These guys have been around. They know how to play.” He continued, “It’s a tough decision for Nick and Whitey, who’ve played well for us, too,” he continued. “It’s a good problem to have for the coach when you have eight guy that can play.”

The first action point in the game came just under two minutes in, and it was a doozy. Dawson Mercer directed Timo Meier’s shot into the net, and the goal first went to replay review to determine whether or not Mercer engaged in a forward kicking motion on the deflection. Once replay review determined that part of the goal was good, the referee announced that the Golden Knights were going to challenge the play for goalie interference. After a few minutes of deliberating, it was determined that there was in fact goalie interference. After all that, we were still tied at zero.

The rest of the opening stanza went relatively quietly, with the Knights managing to outshoot the Devils 13-7 in the period despite not looking particularly impressive on the ice.

If you came to the rink expecting lots of goals, you would have been pretty disappointed through two periods. The second period was another scoreless affair. You can thank goalies Logan Thompson and Jake Allen for that. Thompson, the Knights second string netminder, spent the period sparring with the Devils backup Jake Allen, with each goalie delivering impressive saves to keep the score knotted at zero through two periods.

It didn’t take long into the third for the Devils to break the stalemate. 38 seconds in, Nico Hischier put one through Logan Thompson’s legs just seconds before a Knights defender saved it from crossing the blue line by deflecting the puck to Hischier. You could hear a pin drop in T-Mobile Arena after that one.

“He really competed hard to find the puck. It got behind him, so I don’t think he knew where it was,” Cassidy said. “I can’t really fault him on that. We had bodies back. That’s one of those reloads that we just didn’t sort of sort out, I guess, for lack of a better term, but we were there.”

Two and half minutes of game time later, it was hard to hear your own thoughts. After a misplay on the puck contributed to the mess that led to a Devils’ goal just minutes before, Alex Pietrangelo fired a wrister toward the net. The shot found the stick of William Carrier, who deflected it past Jake Allen and into the net to tie the game at one. The recent acquisition Hanifin received secondary assist credit on the goal.

With 8:54 remaining, Jack Eichel sent the place into hysterics. He took a feed from Noah Hanifin at center ice and worked his way into the slot, where he fired a shot past Jake Allen’s outstretched glove to give the Golden Knights a 2-1 lead they so desparately needed to hold. It was Eichel’s 21st goal of the season despite missing two months after getting knee surgery.

The Knights added an empty net goal courtesy of William Karlsson with 18.9 seconds left to settle the final score at 3-1.