Editor’s note: With the NHL season suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Review-Journal will count down the Golden Knights’ top five games of the season, in our opinion.
The game: Game No. 45, a 5-4 home overtime win over the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 4.
The background: Two days prior, then-Knights coach Gerard Gallant stormed out of his postgame news conference after a question about his club’s record against winning teams.
It was almost too perfect that the Blues were the Knights’ next opponent.
St. Louis, the defending Stanley Cup champion, came to Las Vegas as the Central Division leaders. The Blues were 8-2 in their past 10 games. They were a perfect challenge. And the Knights rose up to meet it.
What happened: The game looked over after 20 minutes.
The Blues led 3-0 after the first period, stunning the T-Mobile Arena crowd. Something was said in the Knights’ locker room at intermission — it’s unclear what — and the home team came out for the second completely different.
The next time the Knights were in their dressing room, they trailed 3-2 after goals by forwards Ryan Reaves and Paul Stastny. They tied the game 3:02 into the third with a goal from rookie Nicolas Roy and took a 4-3 lead 6:48 later on right wing Reilly Smith’s goal.
It was pandemonium. The Knights had taken a hard punch and answered with one of their own.
But David Perron quieted the boisterous crowd. The former Knights wing scored on the power play with 7:10 left to tie the game at 4. The game then hung in the balance for 10 tension-filled minutes through the end of the third and into overtime.
Knights center Chandler Stephenson then stepped up to play hero.
The Blues had a potential 3-on-1 developing in the neutral zone with about two minutes left in overtime, but Stephenson backchecked hard. He caught up with puck carrier Brayden Schenn below the blue line and forced a wayward pass across the defensive zone.
Stephenson circled around the net while St. Louis forward Robert Thomas grabbed the puck by the right wall. Knights right wing Alex Tuch applied enough pressure to get the puck loose, and Stephenson came flying with speed through the right circle to pick it up for a breakaway.
One backhand move on Blues goaltender Jake Allen later and the game was over. Stephenson, who had been with the Knights barely a month, became the improbable author of the greatest comeback in franchise history.
Never before had the team erased a three-goal deficit and won. It now had done so against one of the NHL’s best teams.
“Obviously, you never want to get down (3-0), but when it happens, it now proves we can come back,” Stephenson said.
Game MVP: The fourth line of left wing Tomas Nosek, Roy and Reaves can share this one.
Gallant mixed up his top three forward lines after the dismal first period but left the fourth untouched. That decision paid off in a major way because the group contributed two goals to the comeback and showed fight when their teammates didn’t.
The performance was especially sweet for Reaves, who played for the Blues from 2010 to 2017.
“I do,” Reaves said when asked if he enjoyed scoring against his former team. “A lot. Sick of those guys winning against us, so that was nice.”
The aftermath: The comeback was unsustainable.
The game began a bad trend for the Knights that ultimately cost Gallant his job. The team also fell behind 3-0 in its next three games — all at T-Mobile Arena — to derail a 4-0 start to a long homestand.
Why it’s No. 2: It was the greatest comeback in Knights history and came against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
The Review-Journal’s top five Golden Knights games this season:
No. 2: Epic comeback vs. defending champs