The Golden Knights continue to make believers throughout the NHL.
With recent wins over three of the league’s elite teams — Nashville, Pittsburgh and Tuesday, a dramatic 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning — the Knights are proving that their inaugural season success is not being driven by luck.
“I don’t think it’s by surprise and they’re a very good team,” said Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, whose third-period goal tied the game 3-3, before Shea Theodore won it with 2.3 seconds remaining. “They have four lines that go north, and they have their kind of identity. They play three lanes, play hard and play with speed.
“They’re a good team, and it’s not a fluke. They have a great home record, and it’s impressive that they’re first in their division. It’s definitely not a fluke and after a few games it might have been, but this far in it’s not.”
The Knights snapped Tampa Bay’s seven-game winning streak for a two critical points that returned them to a tie for the top spot of the Pacific Division. The fact they were able to skate with the Lightning and match special-teams play with four power-play goals again showed the Knights can play with anyone.
Knights coach Gerard Gallant said a win like Tuesday’s will go a long way.
“This definitely builds confidence every time you win a hockey game when you’re playing great teams,” he said. “Anybody we beat is a big win for us. I just think the more we keep playing well and the more we win hockey games, the more confidence our guys get.”
The Knights have 22 wins, 46 points and are 14-2-1 at T-Mobile Arena. They have picked up seven out of a possible eight points so far as they prepare to close out a five-game homestand Saturday against the Washington Capitals. Gallant said it’s important to turn the page on Tuesday’s win and focus on the Capitals, who lead the competitive Metropolitan Division with 45 points.
“I just like the way we’re playing,” he said. “We’ve got to keep doing that. We’ve got to come to the rink every day and play with confidence. We do that, we’ll be fine.”
Each night, it’s someone else stepping up and delivering. Tuesday, it was Theodore’s slap shot from the point on the power play past Andrei Vasilevskiy for the game-winner. It capped a four-point performance for the defenseman, who has run hot-and-cold since being recalled from Chicago of the American Hockey League Oct. 30.
“I thought he was outstanding,” Gallant said of Theodore. “I’m not going to break down his every shift, but I thought there was only one shift where I said, ‘What are we doing here, Shea?’ Defensively he made great plays. He had some time on the PK. Obviously, on the power play he was excellent. I thought he was outstanding.
“That’s what we talked about when he got called back up. It’s all about confidence for him and playing better defense. I think we’re seeing real good results right now.”