William Karlsson was happy.
Oscar Dansk was happier.
Neither figured to play a role in the outcome that was the Golden Knights’ 3-2 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena. But sometimes heroes are the ones you least expect to be, as the Knights became the first team in NHL history to start their inaugural season 6-1.
Karlsson scored the winning goal with 25 seconds left in overtime after Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo beat backup goaltender Oscar Dansk to tie the game 2-2 with 5:08 left in regulation.
Dansk was pressed into action after starter Malcolm Subban left the game with an injury to his right leg after stretching to make a save with 9:10 to play.
Subban’s condition will be re-evaluated Sunday. The team said after the game he had sustained a lower-body injury, but would not give further details for his status for Tuesday’s home game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
It was Dansk’s NHL debut, and after he was scored on with the first shot he faced, he said he needed to develop amnesia.
“You just let it go and move on,” he said. “It’s still a tie game. We’re still in it. You just keep fighting.”
He wound up facing 11 shots, five in overtime, including one about a minute in when he stopped Jaden Schwartz’s attempt from the high slot by stopping the puck with his blocker and his right leg.
“I was trying to take away a lot of the net and not give him as much to shoot it,” he said of the biggest of his 11 saves.
Karlsson was teaming with linemate Reilly Smith for his hero’s role. The Knights gained control with about 30 seconds remaining in OT and Smith quickly accelerated into the St. Louis zone.
In the three-on-three overtime, there’s more room to operate, and nobody picked up a streaking Karlsson down the right side. Smith put a perfect saucer pass across and Karlsson buried it past Jake Allen, sending the announced crowd of 17,883 into a wild celebration.
“He’s great to play with,” Karlsson said of Smith, who had a hand in all three goals. “I was just busting my ass to get into the play, and he saw me and he found me with a perfect pass.”
Smith, whose second-period power-play goal tied the score 1-1 after Magnus Paajarvi’s goal 12:51 into the game had given St. Louis a 1-0 lead, said it was past time for the team to break through with the man advantage.
“Sometimes it’s about causing some havoc,” Smith said of his goal, which came after Colin Miller’s slap shot from the point was blocked by Robert Bortuzzo and wound up on Smith’s stick and was quickly sent goalward and past Allen.
“I think we’re getting more shots and a higher quality of shots on the power play, and it’s starting to click.”
Miller put the Knights ahead 2-1 with his power-play goal, a rising wrist shot from the right faceoff circle with 2:33 left in the second period after Smith got him the puck.
The Knights were outshot 49-22. They had quality chances, but Allen was a force.
“The shot total scares you sometimes,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. “But we found a way.”
Blues coach Mike Yeo said outshooting the opposition doesn’t guarantee anything.
I’m not going to sit here and beat up on anybody,” he said. “Listen, that team’s got a good record for a reason. They play with structure.
“We knew it was going to be difficult to generate offense, but you get 49 shots on goal, you’re doing some good things. And obviously we had some opportunities that we couldn’t cash in on, but if you play like that most nights, you’re going to come away with a win.”
The Blues thought they tied the score earlier in the third period when Vladimir Sobotka chipped the puck at Subban 3:13 in and Subban lost his balance and fell into his net. The call on the ice was no goal, and the video replay confirmed it.
Almost eight minutes later, Subban was hobbling off the ice and replaced by Dansk.
“I tried to get myself ready to play, and there were a million thoughts going through my head,” Dansk said. “I just tried to block them out and focus on playing.”
Three takeaways from Saturday’s game
1. The special teams showed up. The Golden Knights’ power play struggles have been well documented. But two PPGs Saturday from Reilly Smith and Colin Miller should give the team a boost. The penalty killing unit, which surrendered three goals vs. Buffalo on Tuesday, killed off all five penalties Saturday.
2. Brayden McNabb’s return. The defenseman had been a healthy scratch the past couple of games, but he played solidly Saturday. He made simple plays, stayed at home and helped goalie Malcolm Subban by clearing loose pucks in front of Subban or picking up any St. Louis forward lurking. It didn’t hurt having Deryk Engelland, the Knights’ most consistent and dependable defenseman, as McNabb’s partner.
3. Quality, not quantity, chances. The Knights were badly outshot over the first two periods, 29-12. But of the 12 they took in the first 40 minutes, many were quality chances, and Jake Allen had to be sharp in the St. Louis net or the 2-1 lead the Knights took into the third period could have been larger.
— Steve Carp Review-Journal