COLUMBUS, Ohio — Holding a lead in the third period hasn’t been the Golden Knights’ strong suit lately.
But when faced with a strong push from Columbus on Tuesday, this time they held on.
Reilly Smith scored twice, and the Knights snapped their two-game winless skid by grinding out a 2-1 victory over the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
“I think we were pretty resilient just trying to clear the front of the net,” Smith said. “It seemed like they had a lot of waves of pressure and they were creating chances. It was nice to see this one go our way.”
The Knights squandered two-goal leads in the third period of their past two games against Montreal and Winnipeg, the first time in franchise history that’s happened in consecutive games, according to NHL stats and information.
Columbus was held without a shot on goal for the opening 10:27 of the third then peppered Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury for the next seven minutes.
Fleury finished with 29 stops to earn his league-best ninth win.
“A couple good bounces on our side tonight,” Fleury said. “The guys battled hard. They helped me out when pucks were hanging behind me.”
Smith gave the Knights the lead with 44.8 seconds remaining in the first period then converted short-handed on a 2-on-1 with William Karlsson to put the Knights ahead 2-1 at 7:36 of the second period. It was his team-leading ninth goal of the season.
Karlsson had two assists to reach 200 points for his NHL career.
Here’s what stood out in the Knights’ win:
1. Engelland sits
Defenseman Deryk Engelland paid for his egregious turnover in Saturday’s loss to Winnipeg by being a healthy scratch against the Blue Jackets in favor of rookie Nic Hague.
Now the question becomes, was it a temporary move or the first step toward phasing out the 37-year-old longtime Las Vegas resident and assistant captain?
Engelland owned a 43.8 shot attempts percentage at 5-on-5 through 15 games, worst among the team’s defenseman. His penalty killing helped keep him in the lineup, but the Knights went 4-for-4 against Columbus.
“(Hague) deserves a chance to play, and we’re trying some different options,” Gallant said. “It’s tough. You’ve got to make tough decisions, and the kid came in and played a real good game.”
2. Fine print
Columbus coach John Tortorella unsuccessfully challenged for offside on Smith’s first goal, contending that Jonathan Marchessault entered the zone before the puck.
Marchessault took a long pass off the boards from defenseman Nate Schmidt at the Columbus blue line and appeared on replay to have both skates across the blue line before the puck crossed.
But according to NHL Rule 83.1, “… a player actually controlling the puck who shall cross the line ahead of the puck shall not be considered ‘off-side,’ provided he had possession and control of the puck prior to his skates crossing the blue line.”
The NHL Situation Room reviewed the play and ruled Marchessault had possession and control of the puck as he entered the attacking zone.
3. Spoonful of sugar
Fleury missed Saturday’s loss with the flu but showed no ill effects against the Blue Jackets.
He made two key stops in the first period on Sonny Milano and Zach Werenski, and turned away Oliver Bjorkstrand from point-blank range in the final eight minutes of the second period.
Fleury’s lone mistake came at 5:23 of the second, when he anticipated a pass and left an entire side of his net open for Boone Jenner.
“I looked so stupid,” Fleury said with a laugh.