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Knights beat Coyotes; Phil Kessel appears in 1,000th straight game

Updated November 17, 2022 - 11:44 pm

The first player announced from the Golden Knights’ starting lineup Thursday was Phil Kessel, a nod to his one-of-a-kind milestone.

It was one of several tributes at T-Mobile Arena to the NHL’s “Ironman.”

Kessel became the the first player in NHL history to appear in 1,000 consecutive games, the cherry on top of a 4-1 victory over the Arizona Coyotes that snapped the Knights’ two-game losing skid.

“It’s nice to get past it and we won another game, and now we just have to keep going,” Kessel said. “It was neat. Obviously 1,000 games in a row, that’s a lot. Like I’ve said, I don’t really know how I did it.”

Before the game against the Coyotes, the Knights honored Kessel, whose wife, Sandra, and daughter, Kapri, were in attendance.

“It was nice to have my wife and daughter out on the ice,” he said. “Got some nice gifts from the team. It was a good night.”

Kessel’s streak started Nov. 3, 2009, while he was a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he set the NHL record when he appeared in his 990th consecutive game Oct. 25 at San Jose.

Since the NHL was founded in 1917-18, 369 players have played 1,000 career games, and none did it consecutively until Kessel.

“It’s phenomenal, especially the way the game is played and it’s so physical now,” Knights forward William Carrier said. “And he’s won Stanley Cups. It’s not like they’re easy games. He’s been there and grinding, and the playoffs are tough. I tip my cap to him. I don’t think we’ll see that ever again.”

President of hockey operations George McPhee presented Kessel with a special edition, 3-liter bottle of Foley Johnson wine to honor his record-breaking 990th consecutive game.

The two-time Stanley Cup winner also was given a custom sculpture inspired by Las Vegas to recognize his 1,000th consecutive NHL game, while the announced crowd of 17,708 received a towel with the “Phi1Kessel” hashtag to commemorate the achievement.

Kessel, who received congratulations from his teammates after the pregame ceremony, didn’t record a point and finished with three shots on goal in 16:01 of ice time.

Carrier, Mark Stone and Reilly Smith had third-period goals, and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo also scored.

Nicolas Roy aggravated a lower-body injury and left in the third period. There was no further update, but he is expected to be available for Saturday’s game at Edmonton, according to coach Bruce Cassidy.

Here are three takeaways from the victory:

1. Protect the lead

Cassidy wants the Knights to become more comfortable playing with a one-goal lead and closing out low-scoring games. That point was driven home after Tuesday’s 5-2 loss when San Jose scored four times in the third period.

Against the Coyotes, the Knights were able to add to their lead in the final period with three goals.

“You’ve got to be comfortable in one-goal games,” Cassidy said. “We were clearly the better team in the third, flipped the (script) from now to San Jose the other night where we score early in the third. … We settled for what was in front of us.”

Carrier drove to the net and scored 31 seconds into the third period for a 2-0 lead, and Stone batted a puck out of the air past Coyotes goalie Karel Vejmelka for his fifth goal at 5:53.

Smith tacked on his ninth goal late.

The Knights are now 8-1 when leading after two periods and snapped a six-game streak of allowing three or more goals.

“I thought we stuck to it,” Pietrangelo said. “We got a little frustrated in the second period. We stuck to the plan there in the third period. The last couple games we got away from what was working … but we just kept at it.”

2. That’s special

Special teams cost the Knights in Tuesday’s loss, but that phase came through against the Coyotes.

Pietrangelo’s rocket one-timer from the point with a power play winding down came at the right time and was the first goal by a Knights defenseman at home. He also had two assists.

The Knights finished 1-for-5 on the power play, and defenseman Shea Theodore hit the post late in the third with the man advantage.

“Our power play got better as the game went along,” Cassidy said. “We started generating the looks that were available to us.”

The penalty kill, which has struggled this season, went 4-for-4.

3. Ring the bell

The only fight the Knights were involved in prior to Thursday was Oct. 28 when defenseman Zach Whitecloud dropped the gloves, though that barely qualified as a scuffle.

Buffalo and Detroit were the only teams with fewer fighting majors than the Knights.

But Keegan Kolesar decided to dance in the second period with Coyotes tough guy Liam O’Brien. Neither player landed any clean punches before the linesmen stepped in.

“Good for (Kolesar), mix it up, get the crowd into it,” Cassidy said.

Kolesar led the Knights in penalty minutes last season with 68 but had only one minor penalty entering the game.

The third period also was chippy with a few scrums after the whistle.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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