GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s not often that a coach describes a 5-1 win as “tight,” but that’s exactly what Gerard Gallant did Sunday in the bowels of Gila River Arena.
He wasn’t wrong, either.
The Knights entered the third period defending a 2-1 lead shorthanded against the Arizona Coyotes, but a few timely penalty kills and late goals led the team to a romp that moved them into a tie for the most points in the Western Conference.
“We finished really strong,” forward Brandon Pirri said. “Our PK did a fantastic job.”
Pirri was one of three Knights who scored in the third, along with Cody Eakin and Ryan Carpenter. The team started the period down a man because of Jonathan Marchessault’s high-sticking minor but got one of its five kills in six tries.
Then three minutes after Marchessault left the box, Eakin took a pass from Carpenter and sent a backhand on net. The puck trickled through the crease but didn’t cross the red line until Eakin followed up and made it 3-1 with 15:39 to play.
“They started the third period off with a power play, and our PK did a great job killing that,” Gallant said. “That third goal’s a huge goal for us, obviously, for our confidence. I liked the way we played all night. Not just the third period, but I liked the way we played all night.”
Not long after Eakin’s goal, Pirri scored when defenseman Brayden McNabb sprung him for a breakaway with a long pass. Pirri’s fifth goal in six games this season came a day after he was held off the scoresheet for the first time in his Knights career Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings, and it made the score 4-1 with 13:02 to play.
“Our team transitions so well, so all six D can make that pass,” Pirri said. “He had poise. He looked up the wall, which is the safe play, and then saw he had some time and he found me going the other way. It’s a lot of fun playing here because everyone is contributing.”
Carpenter added one more goal for the Knights in the third when he scored shorthanded with 8:16 left. The offensive outburst was more than enough for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 29 saves, to pick up his league-leading 22nd win.
“We played hard. We played quick. We were good on the forecheck. We were good with the puck,” Marchessault said. “We didn’t have a lot of mistakes, and Flower was Flower.”
Both teams were sluggish at the start after playing Saturday. The Knights struck first when center Paul Stastny scored 3:35 into the game, just after the Coyotes killed a penalty and forward Reilly Smith put the team up 2-0 with 3:57 left in the second period.
Arizona crept back into the game, thanks to penalties, as check to the head call on Alex Tuch and a slashing call on Stastny gave the Coyotes a 5-on-3 advantage. It took forward Alex Galchenyuk nine seconds to capitalize and cut his team’s deficit to 2-1 with 3:03 left in the second.
The Knights’ penalty kill killed the rest of Stastny’s penalty and later Marchessault’s, which came 45 seconds before the second intermission.
“I think the key was late in the second period when we had to kill those penalties,” Gallant said. “They scored on the 5-on-3, but I thought our PK did a great job.”
The victory gives the Knights 50 points, tying Calgary for first in the Pacific Division and matching both the Flames and Winnipeg for tops in the conference.
“We had a chance to come back and we did,” Marchessault said of the Knights’ recent run after starting 9-12-1. “We did a lot of work to come back there, but we have to keep going. There’s a lot of hockey left.”