Golden Knights complete comeback in OT victory over Avalanche

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY
The Golden Knights pulled off a memorable comeback on Sunday afternoon thanks to Tomas Hertl, Batman and Bugs Bunny.

LAS VEGAS — The Golden Knights pulled off a thrilling third-period comeback Sunday afternoon, scoring four consecutive goals and beating the Avalanche 4-3 in overtime at T-Mobile Arena.

It was a worry a few weeks ago whether or not the defending NHL champions could flip the switch and turn their game on this late in the season. It’s not much of a worry anymore.

“I didn’t think it was a one-sided game going into the third, personally,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “(The Avalanche) were opportunistic (early on). … I didn’t feel like, I don’t think our guys thought we were out of it.

“We just needed something good. (We) got one, now all of a sudden you have a little bit of life where and now they’re coming back to back they traveled in last night afternoon game. I don’t know if there’s doubt in their game at all. You know, they’re champions over there.”

The game was notably a part of a special alternative “MultiVersus” telecast on Cartoon Network aimed at courting the next generation of hockey fans. “MultiVersus” is a battle royale fighting game that features all of the prominent characters across Warner’s properties.

The augmented-reality cartoon broadcast included iconic characters such as Bugs Bunny, Batman and Finn from Adventure Time on the ice with the other players. Batman was especially useful for the Knights in the win. Bugs, not so much.

Back in the real world, the win didn’t do much to help the Knights’ playoff seeding. Having already clinched at least the second wild card spot on Friday, they remained one point behind the Los Angeles Kings for third spot in the Pacific Division with two regular-season games remaining.

The Knights did little to inspire the announced crowd of 18,239. They looked sluggish from the opening faceoff to the end of the second intermission, allowing the Avalanche to outshoot them, 11-6.

Colorado’s Ross Cotton and Cale Makar in the first period and Mikko Rantanen added a goal in the second to give the Central Division’s third-place team a 3-0 lead.

Rantanen’s goal was an early highlight. The veteran second-line winger scored on a re-direct in front of the net, leaving Adin Hill with no chance to make a play. It also felt like the dagger at that point.

Little did we know.

Ivan Barbashev finally gave the Golden Knights faithful something to cheer about around 2 minutes, 56 seconds into the third period. Three minutes later, William Karlsson converted an open wrist shot from the faceoff circle.

With 3:37 remaining, Karlsson tied the game at 3-3 with another wrist shot, putting the Knights in prime position to complete the comeback.

What looked to be a sure winner from Noah Hanifin deflected off the post early in the overtime period, but seconds later they found salvation. Tomas Hertl deflected Jack Eichel’s shot into the net for the overtime winner in his second home game with the team.

It was a exhaustive ending to a surprising comeback. Hertl’s proficiency in the faceoff circle might have been just as important as that final redirect, as he went 19 for 25 down the stretch with more than a few huge faceoff wins late in the third period and in overtime.

“We just want to keep rolling,” said Hertl, who was acquired from the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline. “We got two more games and we want to just feel (our) best for the first game in the playoffs.

“I think after first and second (periods), which weren’t that great, we just came hungry in the third and wanted to win the game. I think it was great for all four lines plus our goalie.”