Flip the calendar back to Oct. 24. That’s when the upstart Golden Knights made a statement with a victory at home over one of the early season favorites for the Stanley Cup.
Tuesday’s win over the Blackhawks felt much different.
The Knights retained the top spot in the Western Conference thanks to a four-goal third period and won 5-2 at T-Mobile Arena, sending the last-place Chicago Blackhawks to their seventh consecutive loss.
Brad Hunt, Reilly Smith and David Perron scored in the opening 4:54 of the third period for the Knights (37-15-4, 78 points), who improved to 6-9-1 when trailing after two periods, tying New Jersey for the most third-period comeback wins.
“There’s not a lot of panic in this room, that’s for sure,” Smith said. “When we’re down by a goal going in the third period, we know we can battle it out. It’s just one shot to get us back into it, and Huntsy did a great job giving us that.”
Tomas Nosek, who missed the past 12 games with an upper-body injury, added an empty-net goal and Ryan Carpenter scored in the first period.
The Knights are 20-4-3 at home and became the third team in NHL history with 20 home victories in its inaugural season — the 1967-68 Los Angeles Kings (20 in 37 games) and 1979-80 Hartford Whalers (22 in 40 games) are the others.
And they did it without center Erik Haula, who was a late scratch because of the flu. Oscar Lindberg took Haula’s spot alongside Perron and James Neal, while Brendan Leipsic skated with center Cody Eakin and wing Alex Tuch on the third line.
The Knights scored on their first three shots of the third period to overturn a 2-1 deficit.
Hunt tied the score at 2 with a wrist shot from the point during a power play 1:14 into the third, and Smith put the Knights ahead less than two minutes later when he darted through the slot and ripped a shot past Blackhawks goaltender Jeff Glass.
“We were finding a lot of opportunities tonight,” Smith said. “It seemed like, the first two periods, opportunities were there, we just weren’t putting them in the back of the net. It seemed like once we got one, the floodgates kind of open there, so that was nice to see.”
Perron put the Knights up 4-2 when his wrist shot got past Glass at the 4:54 mark.
“When we scored that second goal to tie it up, it was really noisy and loud,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. “I think the team feeds off that.”
Tommy Wingels and Alex DeBrincat scored for Chicago, which has lost 11 of its past 13 (2-9-2).
The announced gathering of 18,085 saw the first penalty shot against the Knights, as goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was penalized for throwing a broken stick at the puck at 2:59 of the second period.
Fleury made a shoulder stop on Patrick Sharp’s wrister to keep the game tied at 1, but the Blackhawks took the lead less than four minutes later.
After Fleury scrambled to his right to make a diving stop on DeBrincat, Sharp hopped on the rebound and found DeBrincat in the slot for the rookie’s 21st goal.
The Knights got off to a sluggish start and fell behind 2:10 into the first period, as the Blackhawks took advantage of a high-sticking penalty to defenseman Deryk Engelland.
Wingels parked in front of Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and tipped in Erik Gustafsson’s shot from the point for his seventh of the season.
But the Knights’ fourth line provided a lift shortly after on its first shift.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare won a battle behind the net and found Ryan Carpenter, who notched his third goal in five games, stuffing stuffed a wraparound past Blackhawks goaltender Jeff Glass at 5:06 and tying the game at 1.
“We just wanted to stay with it and keep going and trust the system, and I thought we did that,” Hunt said. “I’m really proud of the guys. We battled back and got the big win.”