Updated May 7, 2021 - 10:35 pm
As the largest crowd in the NHL this season filed out of T-Mobile Arena on Friday night, a final “Go Knights Go” chant started.
The cheering didn’t stop until the building was cleared and then continued outside.
With an announced crowd of 7,567 urging them on from start to finish, the Golden Knights rallied for a 4-3 overtime victory over the St. Louis Blues.
Jonathan Marchessault scored with 17.7 seconds remaining in the extra session, as the Knights battled back from a 3-1 second-period deficit.
“Obviously it’s awesome,” defenseman Alec Martinez said. “That’s a big thing we miss, especially at home. Our fans are the best in the league, they give us an advantage, and we feed off their energy and enthusiasm. That was a big part of it tonight.”
The Knights (38-13-2, 78 points) closed in on their third division title in four seasons and remained four points ahead of Colorado with three games remaining. The Avalanche have played one fewer game.
Nicolas Roy scored the tying goal at 6:52 of the third period after Martinez’s drive from the point made it a one-goal game with 9.1 seconds left in the second period.
“Obviously we want to get home advantage in the playoffs, so it’s a big race and important points,” Marchessault said. “At this time of year, it’s no secret, it’s all about good habits. Make sure we manage the puck well.”
Goalie Robin Lehner bounced back from giving up a season-high six goals in his last outing Monday and halted a personal two-game losing skid with 22 saves.
He allowed Jaden Schwartz’s bad-angle goal in the second period that put the Blues ahead 3-1, but denied Kyle Clifford from point-blank range in the third period and came up with a handful of key stops in overtime.
Lehner also picked up the second assist on Marchessault’s winner.
The Knights improved to 9-0 in games decided in overtime.
“It’s no secret the last couple of games in Minnesota and today, I let in some goals that weren’t very good,” Lehner said. “I took a breath in the second period and tried to go out there and do my best and hope the guys scored some goals to win the game. We have a special group here, and everyone came together to do what we needed to do to win the game.”
St. Louis clinched a playoff spot with its point and Los Angeles’ loss to Colorado. The Blues are locked into the No. 4 seed and will meet the Knights if they win the division.
David Perron scored in the second period to give the Blues a 2-1 lead, and Ryan O’Reilly had a short-handed goal in the first period.
“We have an opportunity in the last five or six games to play some teams we could meet in the postseason,” Martinez said. “You want to impose your will and play your game.”
The Knights tested Blues goalie Jordan Binnington early in the first of back-to-back games and went ahead at 13:23 of the first period on Reilly Smith’s 11th goal.
William Karlsson was first into the zone on the forecheck to wave off any icing and forced Binnington into a bad clearing attempt that was stolen along the wall.
Defenseman Nic Hague pinched in from the point to receive a pass from Karlsson and found Smith free on the doorstep. Smith whiffed on the first attempt, but was able to push the puck across the line and extend his points streak to four games.
But all that good work was undone late when the Knights lost track of O’Reilly in the slot. Tyler Bozak found the Blues captain, and he beat Lehner for a short-handed goal with 1:52 remaining in the first period.
“This was a tough one coming back from a four-game road trip, which is always a little bit of a trap game,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “I thought we fought through that. It wasn’t the prettiest game, but we found a way.”