The question was asked in various ways, but Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant had the same answer no matter how it was presented.
It didn’t matter that goaltender Oscar Dansk was making his first NHL start Tuesday. The Knights weren’t going to deviate from the system that helped them get off to the best start ever by an expansion franchise.
The Knights stared down a Stanley Cup contender and never flinched, and the result was a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks in front of 18,108 mostly red-clad Chicago fans at T-Mobile Arena.
“A lot of people weren’t expecting us to win this game,” Gallant said. “Chicago is a hell of a team. We’re playing a minor league goalie. But we played a confident game. Everybody played defense. Everybody played offense. Everybody played in the neutral zone.”
Dansk made 29 saves, and the Knights’ fourth line provided most of the offense in the team’s fourth consecutive victory.
Tomas Nosek had a goal and set up fellow fourth-line forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare for a goal in the second period to give the Knights a 3-1 lead.
“We never have this as a first goal to score really,” Bellemare said. “We try to mostly get momentum for the team, and tonight was a good night for us. We got rewarded twice. Maybe some nights it won’t happen.”
Jonathan Marchessault, who was activated from the injured-reserve list prior to the game, added a power-play goal midway through the third period to put the Knights (7-1) on top 4-1.
William Karlsson also scored on the man advantage in the first period for the Knights, who close their seven-game homestand against Colorado at 3 p.m. Friday.
Dansk got the start after Malcolm Subban was injured in the third period against St. Louis on Saturday. He allowed a goal Tuesday on the second shot he faced.
But the 23-year-old from Sweden recovered and had two pivotal stops for the Knights, who have won four straight games and five of their past six.
First, Dansk turned aside Patrick Kane, Chicago’s leading scorer, on a 2-on-1 with a little more than six minutes remaining in the second period. He then stopped Patrick Sharp on a breakaway early in the third period to preserve a two-goal lead.
“I felt better and better,” Dansk said. “I think I kind of redeemed myself after the first goal and got more comfortable and started playing my game as well as I could.”
Kane was held in check for most of the night. He scored with 1:05 remaining in the third period. John Hayden had a short-handed goal after a turnover by Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt that gave the Blackhawks (5-3-2) the lead 3:33 into the first period.
The Knights responded with two goals in a span of 1:47 to take the lead.
Karlsson got a stick on Colin Miller’s blast from the point and redirected it past Corey Crawford for a power-play goal at 3:59.
Nosek then poked home a loose puck at 5:46 after Deryk Engelland’s shot from the right wing crawled up Crawford’s shoulder and fell into the crease.
“I think we’ve been working pretty smartly,” Bellemare said. “The time where we give them chances is the time we kind of sat back and looked at them, and this is pretty much what we did against St. Louis. Tonight was a more complete game, and if you want to be successful through an entire season, we’re going to have to play more this way.”
1. United Center West. Blackhawks fans invaded T-Mobile Arena and turned it into a sea of red jerseys. They cheered throughout the national anthem, per tradition, and cheered wildly after John Hayden’s short-handed goal early in the first period. The only thing missing was deep-dish pizza and a hot dog dragged through the garden.
2. Power play clicking. Remember when the Knights opened the season by converting on just one of their first 21 man-advantage opportunities? The Knights have now scored on the power play in three straight games after William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault found the net.
3. Quiet night. James Neal pumped in six goals in the Knights’ first four games. But the high-scoring forward has gone goalless in the past four games. He had one shot and a minus-2 rating against the Blackhawks.
— David Schoen Review-Journal