The last time the Golden Knights appeared at the friendly confines of T-Mobile Arena they were the hottest team in the NHL.
Much has changed in the two weeks since, but not the Knights’ affinity for home ice.
William Karlsson sparked a second-period scoring outburst with two goals, and the Knights cooled off Winnipeg 5-2 on Friday night before an announced crowd of 18,110.
David Perron and Luca Sbisa each had a goal and an assist for the Knights (10-5-1, 21 points), who improved to 7-1 at home and are tied with St. Louis for the best home record in the Western Conference.
“I thought we come back after a long road trip, and a lot of times you don’t feel right your first game back after a trip like that,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “But I thought the guys … played a complete game. They did a great job on the (penalty kill.) Our power play was pretty big, too. They scored a big goal. I thought they played a 60-minute game, and we had to against a good Winnipeg team.”
The Knights scored short-handed, on the power play and at even strength in the second to help end a 1-4-1 skid. They have now outscored opponents 24-10 in the middle period.
Karlsson was left alone in front at 12:17 and tapped home a rebound for a 3-1 lead after Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck couldn’t handle Deryk Engelland’s shot from the point.
After Patrik Laine scored on the power play to cut Winnipeg’s deficit to 3-2 with 6:03 left in the second, the Knights responded with two goals 1:02 apart.
James Neal made the score 4-2 with an unassisted power-play goal at 16:45. Neal, who moments earlier skated to the bench to get a new stick, stole an attempted clearing pass from Dmitry Kulikov before snapping it into an open net for his team-best ninth goal.
Karlsson added a breakaway goal at 17:47 after taking a long outlet pass from Reilly Smith, who had two assists.
It was the first short-handed goal allowed by Winnipeg this season.
Engelland also had two assists for the Knights, who closed to within three points of Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles.
Maxime Lagace finished with 27 saves in his first home game for the Knights. His best stop came early in the second period when he slid across the crease and, fully extended, made a right pad save on Mark Scheifele’s one-timer.
“He’s been great for us,” Engelland said. “Second period on the power play he came up with a huge stop. He battles for every puck.”
Perron extended his assist streak to four consecutive games when he found Sbisa for a one-timer 6:41 into the first period.
Perron then made the score 2-0 when he took a drop pass from Engelland on a 4-on-3 rush and wristed it past Hellebuyck with 4:52 left in period.
“Even though they’re not offensive guys, they’ve been playing all year, they get shots through and they play extremely well defensively,” Perron said of Sbisa and Engelland. “Obviously, we need them to keep going moving forward.”
1. Early jump. Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant wanted to see his team get off to a fast start and reverse a trend that saw opposing teams score first in 10 of the Knights’ first 15 games. He got his wish, as the Knights opened a 2-0 lead on first-period goals from Luca Sbisa and David Perron.
2. Lopsided battle. The Jets feature one of the hottest lines in the league, but the trio of Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor were held in check by the Knights. Aside from Scheifele assisting on Patrik Laine’s power-play goal in the second period, Winnipeg’s top line managed two shots through two periods and was a combined minus-11.
3. Milestone reached. Knights forward Reilly Smith picked up an assist on William Karlsson’s second goal, the 200th point of Smith’s career. The seventh-year forward has 81 goals and 119 assists in 381 career games.