EDMONTON, Alberta — There hasn’t been a whole lot of talk in the Golden Knights’ locker room about how much the team has struggled in the second period this season.
Such chatter is unnecessary when the numbers say it all.
The Knights had been outscored 28-17 in the middle period entering Sunday night’s road game against the Oilers, which was a big part of why the defending Western Conference champions had limped out of the gate.
Cody Eakin helped change that for at least one night. He scored a short-handed goal 2:21 into the second period that tied the game and ignited a stretch of three goals in 2:11 as the Knights exploded for their highest output of the season in a 6-3 win at Rogers Place.
“I saw our team again,” said defenseman Nate Schmidt, who played 19:38 in his return from a 20-game suspension. “I saw what we’re capable of and what should be expected of us every night.”
Max Pacioretty followed up Eakin’s goal 1:32 later when he put a puck toward Eakin on the far post, only to have it hit off a defender and into the net. Jonathan Marchessault continued the onslaught 40 seconds after that when he tucked a shot just inside the far post on a power play.
When it was over, the Knights had a short-handed, even strength and power play goal to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead.
“They all know (we have struggled in the second period),” assistant coach Ryan Magill said while handling postgame media duties in place of Gerard Gallant. “It’s not talked about because the guys in the room know and they’re very prideful in that room. It’s something they know we have to get better at, and they took control of that tonight.”
They weren’t done either.
Marchessault added a goal just 34 seconds into the third, and linemate Reilly Smith tacked on another 2:30 later as the Knights pulled away.
The third member of the team’s top line, William Karlsson, had scored in the first period when he redirected a Shea Theodore shot past Cam Talbot to even the score at 1-1.
It was the first time all three members of the Knights’ top line had scored in the same game this season.
“It’s huge,” Marchessault said of his line’s success. “It’s definitely been a little tougher, not only for our line, but our team. We’re a big part of the team, and we need to show up every night and build off that.”
The Knights fell behind almost immediately, as young Oilers star center Connor McDavid scored just 52 seconds into the game on a deflection of a Matt Benning shot that had Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury twisted in knots in his crease.
Karlsson’s goal temporarily evened the score later in the first period, but Edmonton took the lead into the first intermission when Alex Chiasson muscled a rebound over Fleury’s pad from the side of the net.
The situation didn’t look any brighter when William Carrier was called for boarding just 40 seconds into the second period, but Eakin’s short-handed goal turned the tide.
“Eakin has been unbelievable for us this year and he played great tonight,” Marchessault said. “He has a few short-handed goals already. He’s a great player and he’s making the right plays at the right time.”
Eakin’s goal was big. The team’s response to it was massive as they scored the next four goals to take control of the game.
“We came on strong,” Eakin said. “One thing led to another, and we got a few in the back of the net. It’s what we needed.”
Leon Draisaitl evened McDavid with his 12th goal of the year for Oilers at 3:44 of the third period, but it was as close as the Oilers would get.
Marchessault, Smith and Colin Miller each had three points. It was the third time Marchessault has done so with the Knights, tying him with Karlsson for the franchise record.
“This team is trying to build as much confidence as we can,” Magill said. “I think this will get us going that way for sure.”
The Knights will find out quickly if it carries over as they head about three hours down Alberta Highway 2 to face the Calgary Flames on Monday at 6 p.m.
1. Jonathan Marchessault must have taken notice when Cody Eakin tied him for the team lead in goals with eight when he scored short-handed early in the second period. Marchessault responded with a goal later in the period and added one in the third to reclaim his grip on the team lead.
2. Heating up. The Knights offense is starting to show signs of life. Sunday marked the third time in six games they have scored at least five times after not reaching that mark once in the first 15 games.
3. There was a lot of talk about what Nate Schmidt’s return meant, but fellow defenseman Colin Miller was fantastic Sunday night. Paired with Brayden McNabb for most of the game, Miller had three assists in a team-high 21:17 of ice time and finished with a plus-3 rating.
Who: Golden Knights at Flames
When: 6 p.m. Monday
Where: Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, Alberta
TV: AT&T SportsNet (Cox 313/1313, DirecTV 684, CenturyLink 760/1760, U-verse 757/1757, DISH 414/5414)
Radio: KRLV (98.9 FM, 1340 AM); ESPN Deportes (1460 AM)