Reilly Smith was too busy scoring goals Saturday to look at the out-of-town scoreboard.
Had the Golden Knights forward taken a peek, he would have seen good news.
Thanks to their 6-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at T-Mobile Arena coupled with Tampa Bay’s loss, the Knights moved into first place overall in the NHL standings with 82 points.
No expansion team in any of the four major professional sports has owned the best record in the league this late in a season, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
“We’ve done a good job picking up a lot of points, especially at home,” Smith said. “I don’t think anyone in this locker room is really looking at our overall standings. We just try to pick up points whenever we can, and we just look at it as a daily basis approach.”
Smith finished with two goals and an assist to match his career high for points in a season with 51. Linemate Jonathan Marchessault added three assists for the Knights (39-15-4).
Ryan Carpenter and Nate Schmidt each had a goal and an assist as the Knights improved to 22-4-2 at home, tying the 1979-80 Hartford Whalers for most home victories by a team in its inaugural season.
“We need to play the right way, and when I think we do we get rewarded,” Marchessault said. “Tonight we played the right way. They had some nice goals, but we definitely didn’t stop the pressure and we kept going.”
With an announced crowd of 18,122 and a “Hockey Night in Canada” audience looking on, the Knights scored three goals on their first six shots to chase Canadiens goaltender Antti Niemi with 10:09 remaining in the first period.
The Knights led 3-2 after a back-and-forth first period and scored twice in a span of 39 seconds early in the second period.
“I thought the first period was a fast game for both teams, had a lot of scoring chances,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. “It was a north-south game, and then I thought we really played well in the second period, took the game over.”
Carpenter pounced on a loose puck in the slot and ripped a shot past Carey Price at 3:07 for his fifth goal in the past seven games.
Smith then converted at 3:46 of the second when Price failed to swat away a rebound and Smith backhanded in his 19th goal of the season for a 5-2 advantage.
Smith had a chance for the hat trick and his 20th goal of the season late in the third period, but his one-timer from the slot never made it on net.
“I probably should have had it on that last shift. Marchy found me in the middle,” Smith said. “Goals are obviously very important, and I try to do what I can when I get the opportunities. Playing with two great players, it’s my job to be able to put some in the back of the net. It was nice to be able to get a couple tonight and help us win.”
Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 30 shots, including a spectacular glove save early in the third period to deny Charles Hudon, who scored Montreal’s first goal.
“He had one in the first, and it was my chance to redeem myself a little bit there,” Fleury said. “It worked out.”
Tomas Nosek and Brad Hunt also scored in the first period for the Knights, who handed Montreal its fifth straight loss.
“I guess it’s good when you win, but I’m sure (Gallant) wanted us to play a little more complete effort and not be as sloppy in the third,” Carpenter said. “Sometimes you say don’t take your foot off the gas, but it’s easier said than done sometimes.”
1. Physical Flower. Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was penalized for interference in the third period after he knocked down Montreal’s Charles Hudon behind the net. It was Fleury’s first penalty of the season. “I guess I got a good piece of him,” Fleury said.
2. On the draw. The Knights struggled at times on faceoffs, winning 28 of the 61 draws. But they won them when it counted, as both of Reilly Smith’s goals and Nate Schmidt’s third-period tally were set up by winning faceoffs in the offensive zone.
3. Fourth-line makes impact. Despite losing center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to injury in the first period, fourth-line wings Ryan Carpenter and Tomas Nosek combined for two goals and an assist along with a plus-five rating.
David Schoen Review-Journal