VGK welcomes back old face, gets game-winner from new one in big victory

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY
The Golden Knights welcomed an Original Misfit back to The Fortress and got a game-winner from a rookie in a wild Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.

LAS VEGAS–Saturday was full of emotion at T-Mobile Arena. That much was already evident when the night began with a video tribute to “Original Misfit” Reilly Smith in the first period. It ended in a Disney movie-style plot twist, as rookie Brendan Brisson scored the game-winning goal in a wild three-goal third period comeback while his childhood hero and family friend Sidney Crosby was on the ice for the Penguins.

“Jeez, it was crazy. I put the puck on net, saw it went in and sort of blacked out from there. I don’t even know if I celly’d,” Brisson told the media after the game. “I was fired up.”

Brisson’s father Pat has been Sidney’s agent since Sid was a teenager. Sidney has literally known Brendan since he was a baby. The kid Sidney used to babysit gave everyone, Sid included, a fantastic moment to remember on Saturday night.

When asked if he knew that Crosby was on the ice when he scored, Brisson replied “Somebody told me when I got back to the bench. I mean, it’s special. He was growing up at my house before he was drafted, him and Malkin. Just to play against them tonight and to be able to score my first NHL goal against them was pretty special.”

On the topic of Reilly Smith and therefore the Misfits as a whole, the Golden Knights are still in the early stages of their franchise. They don’t really have a definitive franchise legend that they can claim as the sole centerpiece to the team’s rise to success. Sure, plenty of fans felt that way about Marc-Andre Fleury while he was here. But let’s be real, he was always a Penguin first and his perceived impact has since been dwarfed by the longer standing Misfits.

During their improbable first season, the 2017-18 Golden Knights began to call themselves the “Golden Misfits”, in reference to the team being a group of castaways that were left unprotected by their teams in the expansion draft. At the end of the Knights’ sixth season in 2023, the six remaining Golden Misfits led the team to their first Stanley Cup championship win.

Those six players, Jonathan Marchessault, William Carrier, William Karlsson, Brayden McNabb, Shea Theodore, and Reilly Smith, now known as the “Original Misfits” became immortals in the City of Las Vegas when they lifted the cup.

Just weeks after the Stanley Cup win, the Knights shockingly elected to re-sign midseason acquisition Ivan Barbashev instead of retaining Smith. They traded him to the Penguins for a third round pick. Before Reilly left town though, he made sure to follow through with hosting his annual charity softball game at Las Vegas Ballpark. It allowed for a rare, dignified send off for a player involved in an offseason trade.

In his return to The Fortress on Saturday night, the injured Smith watched his tribute video in his well-tailored suit from the entry of the tunnel. He received an ovation from the Las Vegas crowd that was indicative of how much this city appreciated him and his family while they were here.

At the first intermission, Jonathan Marchessault and Alex Pietrangelo’s kids were among players participating in the pee-wee hockey scrimmage. Smith joined his former teammates on the bench and shared a moment with them as they were watching the kids.

The actual game on the ice was all Pittsburgh through two, and frankly was a brutal effort from the Knights to that point. The third was an entirely different story. After being down 2-0 to start the period, Brisson’s goal gave the Knights their first lead exactly at the midway point of the period ,completing a three-goal rally that resulted in them stealing a 3-2 win.

How it happened

The first period went quietly, albeit emotionally. About halfway through the period, Reilly Smith was honored with what was arguably the most well deserved video tribute in the team’s brief history.

The Penguins opened the scoring nine minutes into the second period, when Ryan Graves banked a goal off the back of Logan Thompson and into the net for a 1-0 lead. It was a clear misplay from Thompson and the Knights’ defenseman. Erik Karlsson and Evgeni Malkin tallied assists on the goal.

Just a few minutes later, one turned into two for the Penguins. Jake Guentzel fired a hard wrister that crossed Logan Thompson up and left the Knights playing catch-up with a two goal deficit at the second intermission. Guentzel’s longtime linemate Crosby tallied the assist on the goal with a perfectly placed dish.

The Golden Knights entered the second intermission trailing 2-0. Whatever Bruce Cassidy said to the boys in the locker room got them going in the third, because before we could even get to the halfway period of final period the Knights had already taken a 3-2 lead.

The first Golden Knights goal of the third period came courtesy of Marchessault. The Conn Smythe winner pushed the puck past Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry from directly in front of the net to cut the Penguins lead in half. Barbashev and Alec Martinez tallied assists on the goal.

The second came from Pavel Dorofeyev, who flicked the puck past Jarry and into the net off a feed from Chandler Stephenson. Dorofeyev’s goal came just 1:32 after Marchessault broke the ice for the Knights.

The third and go-ahead goal was the first NHL goal for Golden Knights’ rookie Brendan Brisson. Brisson fired a beautiful wrist shot that went right past Jarry’s stick side to complete the comeback for the Knights and give them a 3-2 at the midway point of the final period. The Fortress exploded when the goal was scored, and then exploded once more when Brisson’s name and goal were announced to the crowd.

The Golden Knights were able to hang on for the back half of the final period, stealing a 3-2 win from a Penguins team that looked to have two points penciled in at the start of the third.

Up next

The Golden Knights depart for a road trip on the Eastern Seaboard next week, with five upcoming games all coming against Metropolitan division opponents. The Sporting Tribune’s Steve Carp will be providing coverage from the New York portion of the roadie.