Local sports fans had several quality choices for spending their entertainment dollars on Saturday.
But for sheer excitement, none of the events that took place in town could top the action at T-Mobile Arena.
Jonathan Marchessault recorded the third hat trick in franchise history, and the Golden Knights raced to a 7-3 victory over Pittsburgh in an action-packed encounter.
“Tonight was definitely special,” Marchessault said. “When we play Pittsburgh, it’s always special for us because it’s our best player of the team (Marc-Andre Fleury) playing against his old team, so we definitely want to show off for him. He was big for us. He stopped a lot of grade-A (chances) and we were able to back him up.”
Fleury finished with 34 saves against his former team, including a sprawling stop on Phil Kessel in the second period to keep the score tied at 3.
Max Pacioretty and Oscar Lindberg scored 43 seconds apart, and Shea Theodore added a power-play goal in the first period for the Knights.
William Karlsson finished with a goal and an assist after going the previous eight games without a point.
The Knights improved to 16-4-3 at home and won for the ninth time in their past 11 games.
The announced crowd of 18,511 is the second-largest in regular-season history.
“It was a game back in the ’80s for me,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “It was a very entertaining game for the fans.”
Fleury embraced the action.
“It’s more fun,” he said. “You feel you’re more engaged and you’re doing more for the team, it feels like. It’s just fun. I like playing, I like making saves. It was good. When you win at the end, it’s always fun.”
Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby tied the score 3-3 at 5:56 of the second period before the Knights scored four unanswered goals, including Marchessault’s empty-netter with 21 seconds left.
“We’ve had so many battles together so (Crosby) finally got his goal, I guess,” Fleury said of his former Pittsburgh teammate.
Marchessault put the Knights up 4-3 with 7:34 left in the second after a turnover by Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith, then made it a two-goal game nearly four minutes later when he slid a rebound that barely crossed the goal line before Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson could clear the puck.
Marchessault, who had one goal in his past 11 games, leads the team with 17 goals. His last hat trick was March, 25, 2017, against the Chicago Blackhawks while with the Panthers.
“It’s definitely hard sometimes, trying to work trying to make the right plays at the right time. That’s just the way it goes sometimes,” Marchessault said. “You just have to battle through it. Tonight I was happy that we got rewarded. As a line, I think we take a lot of pride playing well defensively and when we do that we normally get rewarded like tonight.”
The Knights scored three unanswered goals in a high-paced first period, including two in a 43-second span, to grab a 3-1 advantage.
Theodore’s drive from the point on a power play tied the score 1-1 at 6:09 after Kessel opened the scoring with this fourth goal in two games against the Knights. The Knights had been 1 for their past 30 on the power play.
Pacioretty put the Knights on top 2-1 with 4:40 left in the first. Paul Stastny appeared to partially fan on a one-timer in the slot, but the puck slid to Pacioretty in the right faceoff circle and he scored his 13th with DeSmith out of position.
Lindberg added his first goal since Dec. 8 when he finished off a 2-on-1 with Ryan Carpenter with 3:57 remaining in the first.
Colin Miller finished with two assists after being activated from injured reserve on Saturday, and Stastny chipped in with two assists.