DENVER — None of the Golden Knights’ regular top-six forwards were in the lineup Tuesday, and Avalanche center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare didn’t face his former team.
Of the 40 players who suited up at Pepsi Center, journeyman Colorado center Erik Condra was the only player over the age of 30.
With both clubs icing teams teams full of prospects and roster long shots, it was the Knights’ veterans who made the difference in a 5-0 victory over Colorado.
Brandon Pirri notched two goals and an assist and linemates Tomas Nosek and Valentin Zykov each finished with two points. Garret Sparks finished with 24 saves to record the shutout in his debut.
“I thought the first two periods we weren’t near as good (as Sunday),” coach Gerard Gallant said. “We had too many turnovers. … But the guys found their legs in the third and played real well.”
Here’s what we learned from the Knights’ victory:
1. Zykov continues to impress.
After being robbed of a goal in the preseason opener by Arizona’s Adin Hill, the hockey gods paid back Zykov with interest.
The winger was credited with the opening goal at 4:08 of the first period when Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram poke-checked the puck off Zykov’s stick and into the Colorado net.
Good fortune aside, it was encouraging to see Zykov keep his feet moving and drive hard to the net. That’s something the Knights would like to see more.
He also had a beautiful assist for Pirri’s second goal.
“When he holds onto the puck, he has the confidence to make plays,” Pirri said.
Zykov spent the summer in Las Vegas working out and is in noticeably better shape than he was when the Knights claimed him on waivers in December. There is an opening on the third line, and the new-and-improved Zykov helped himself Tuesday.
“He went to the net hard,” Gallant said. “He didn’t put the puck in himself, but it wouldn’t have happened if he wasn’t moving his feet. I thought he played a good game.”
2. Sparks stands tall.
The Knights’ goaltender was bulldozed in his crease on three occasions but managed to stop everything the Avalanche threw his way.
Sparks made five stops on two first-period penalty kills and used his lightning-themed pads to kick out a shot during a 5-on-3 in the second period.
Sparks is trying to challenge Malcolm Subban for the role as Marc-Andre Fleury’s backup, and this was a positive first impression.
“It’s not just me keeping the puck out,” Sparks said. “Guys were blocking shots in the slot and there was stuff that wasn’t getting through that I couldn’t see. Guys picking up sticks, picking up guys backdoor. That’s how you get a shutout. It’s a team effort.”
3. Are Hague and Coghlan separating from the pack?
Gallant said Monday that Nate Schmidt is expected to play right defense this season, and he had been working with left defenseman Nic Hague during training camp.
But Schmidt moved to the left side against the Avalanche to partner Dylan Coghlan, who has been this year’s version of Jake Bischoff as the surprise of training camp.
Coghlan had two shots on goal in 15:49 of ice time, and his long pass to spring Tyrell Goulbourne for a first-period breakaway was a highlight.
Not to be outdone, though, Hague scored in the third period when he swooped in for a rebound and made a nifty move to his backhand. He also showed his improved skating when he hustled to break up a potential breakaway in the second period.
■ Sunday: Golden Knights 6, Arizona 2
■ Tuesday: Golden Knights 5, Colorado 0
■ Thursday: at Los Angeles, 7:30 p.m. (NHL Network)
■ Saturday: at San Jose, 5 p.m.
■ Sept. 25: vs. Colorado, 7 p.m.
■ Sept. 27: vs. Los Angeles, 7 p.m. (NHL Network)
■ Sept. 29: vs. San Jose, 5 p.m. (NHL Network)
All games broadcast on KTNV-13