Nothing has come easy for Cody Eakin this season. Even when he finally scored, it turned into a stressful affair.
The snakebit center sweated out a coach’s challenge before finally getting credit for his first goal, and the Golden Knights snapped a five-game winless skid with a 6-0 victory over the Calgary Flames on Sunday at T-Mobile Arena.
“It’s nice to have that reliability and still get opportunities when things aren’t going your way,” Eakin said. “I think the way we were working, it was coming. It’s nice and it’s a relief.”
Marc-Andre Fleury made 34 saves for his second shutout and 58th of his career, moving into a tie for 19th all time.
William Karlsson finished with two goals and an assist, and Max Pacioretty added a goal and an assist to help the Knights win at home for the first time since Oct. 27.
Eakin missed the first four games with a lower-body injury then went without a goal for 17 games before finally breaking through with 5:35 left in the third period to put the Knights on top 4-0.
He got tangled up with Flames center Sean Monahan near the blue line but recovered and finished off a pass from Jonathan Marchessault at the side of the net. Calgary coach Bill Peters unsuccessfully challenged for offside, much to Eakin’s relief.
“He was a lot like the rest of our team,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “We were pressing and we were getting frustrated a little bit. I thought he played the best game of the year tonight. I think he was really good, solid and strong.”
Here’s what stood out from the Knights’ win:
1. Third-period rulebook
The Knights’ shortcomings in the final 20 minutes has been a constant storyline throughout November, and they were outscored 14-5 in the third period of their past 10 games. Gallant said after the loss at Los Angeles on Saturday that the Knights were playing scared to lose.
There was no evidence of that Sunday, as the Knights scored four times in the third to pull away. The announced gathering of 18,083 was appreciative of the effort with a loud ovation at the final horn.
Calgary was shut out on back-to-back days for the first time since March 25 and 26, 2009.
“That’s our goal. Not to sit back on our heels. Not to play scared. Not to play for a tie,” Pacioretty said. “It’s a really good sign when we’re able to keep pucks moving forward and get on the forecheck and play as a unit of five in their end. … That’s when we’re at our best and we have to string together some games just like that now.”
2. Jumping into the play
Defenseman Nate Schmidt’s aggressiveness proved costly against Chicago on Wednesday, but he found the perfect balance Sunday.
He recorded four assists, setting a franchise record for most assists in a game. His rink-wide pass sprung Paul Stastny for his goal.
“When our forwards are skating and they’re forechecking hard, it takes all the guesswork away from us,” Schmidt said, “and it really allows us to be a little bit more free and easy with what we’re doing.”
3. Sense of relief
Mark Stone converted on a late power play to put the Knights up 5-0 for his first point in seven games. The right wing hadn’t scored since Oct. 31, and Karlsson overtook him for the team scoring lead.
Stastny also ended his scoring drought when he stickhandled past Flames defenseman Mark Giordano, the reigning Norris Trophy winner, and wristed a shot past Cam Talbot at 9:39 of the second period for a 2-0 lead. It was his first point in nine games.