Golden Knights play for grieving Las Vegas, deliver historic first win

DALLAS

The green wristbands sparkled in the darkness like a wave of togetherness, American Airlines Center home to NHL history on Friday and yet also a building that remembered those lost and injured in the deadliest gun massacre in modern U.S. history.

In a week when fear and death and incomparable sorrow tested the faith and resolve of Las Vegas like never before, major league professional sports officially joined its ranks.

Everyone did their best here to honor those affected while the visitors also celebrated the latter.

The inaugural expansion season is underway for the Golden Knights, and future record books will tell generations they beat the Dallas Stars 2-1 before 18,532, a night of firsts for the franchise punctuated with a victory.

“A happy ending and yet a lot of people are still suffering at home,” goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. “For us to win the first game, to work hard all night to get it, hopefully it made people in Las Vegas proud of us, proud of their team fighting through adversity.”

Fact: There could be a season’s worth of these types of tight, contested, close, grind-until-the-end games.

But what the Knights lack in skill, they certainly make up for in grit, and yet my vote for the three stars of the night would have read this way:

1. Fleury, who more than flashed the talent that was part of three Stanley Cup championship teams in Pittsburgh. He stopped all but one of 46 shots. He was unbelievable.

2. James Neal. The forward, who didn’t begin skating with the Knights until this past week after undergoing offseason wrist surgery and didn’t anticipate being active for the season opener, scored both goals.

The winning goal came sliding from his knees with 2:44 remaining.

3. The puck that went through the mask of Dallas goalie Ben Bishop in the third period.

No. Seriously.

Bishop went off holding a towel to his bloody face and didn’t return, forcing a much lesser talented Kari Lehtonen into action and opening the door for the Knights.

To that point, Bishop had stopped all 19 shots against him. He was as stellar as Fleury while facing far fewer shots in a lot less traffic.

“We worked hard all game,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. “We stuck around and got a couple good opportunities and capitalized. We’ll enjoy this. This is a great win for our franchise. We’re pretty excited.”

I’m not sure even Fleury can keep up the sort of level he offered, but he will have to be great more nights than not for the team to find success. The Knights were 0-for-7 on the power play and have failed to score off 28 straight dating to the preseason.

That’s more than a little slump.

That’s a sign.

It was one of those games in which Dallas led 1-0 after two periods and yet it felt like 4-0. But that’s who the Knights are going to be, and it was enough on a night when the thoughts of many were 1,200 miles away.

The evening began with Dallas honoring a staff member who died in a car wreck during the offseason, then paying tribute to Dave Strader, the team’s play-by-play voice who died of cancer Sunday at age 62.

The same day of the shooting.

The lights were turned off and green wristbands sparkled in the darkness, and the Stars slowly skated to the blue line and in position behind the Knights, forming a sign of solidarity against the horror and one of respect for the innocent.

On the video board high above, this flashed: Viva Las Vegas.

“Obviously, it’s terrible what happened,” Neal said. “I think in times like this, having a sports team to rally around will help the community in a good way.

“It’s time for all of us to come together. It’s a point where we can rally behind the city and shed some light on a terrible situation. You’ve seen it with other teams in such hard times when terrible things happen that fans can really find something positive in sports. Hopefully, that happens with us.”

Las Vegas never will be the same for many reasons, but in the wake of terror, sports has offered a potential pause to all the chaos and heartache.

One game does not make a season or even a week, but this was different.

History is a starting point, and for theirs, the Golden Knights skated off a winner.

And in the process, gave a grieving city reason to smile, if only for an instant.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Golden Knights Videos
Golden Edge: Coach Gerard Gallant on Knights' 5-2 win over Panthers
Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant speaks after the Golden Knights 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017.
Golden Edge: Golden Knights Defeat the Panthers 5-2
Golden Edge video host Bryan Salmond, reporters David Schoen and Steve Carp talk about the Golden Knights' 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers.
Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith on the third period in 5-2 win over Panthers
Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith talks about the third-period domination on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017 against Florida. The Knights beat the Panthers 5-2. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jonathan Marchessault on winning for Knights coach Gerard Gallant
Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault talks about winning Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, for coach Gerard Gallant. The Knights beat the Panthers 5-2. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights forward Erik Haula on 5-2 win over Florida
Golden Knights forward Erik Haula talks about the team's 5-2 win over Florida on Sunday Dec 17, 2017. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Edge: Golden Knights Defeat the Panthers 5-2
Golden Edge video host Bryan Salmond talks about the Golden Knights' 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers.
Gerard Gallant holds no grudges against his former team
Golden Knights head coach and ex-Florida Panthers coach Gerard Gallant is happy working for the Knights. The Golden Knights face the Panthers on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. (Steve Carp/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Marchessault's thoughts when Gallant was fired at Florida last season
Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault talks about how he felt when head coach Gerard Gallant was fired while he was at Florida last season. The player and coach have been reunited with the Golden Knights and face the Panthers on Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. (Steve Carp/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Edge: Fleury Plays Against Former Team
Golden Edge host Bryan Salmond, Review-Journal reporters David Schoen and Steve Carp recap tonight's Golden Knights game against the Pittsburg Penguins.
Fleury says playing against his former team was "different" than expected
Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury says playing against his former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins was a different experience than he anticipated.
Golden Edge Look Ahead: Pittsburg Penguins
Golden Edge host Bryan Salmond, Review-Journal reporters David Schoen and Steve Carp look ahead to the Golden Knights game against the Pittsburg Penguins.
Golden Edge: Deryk Engelland Sit Down
Golden Edge host Bryan Salmond sits down with Golden Knights' defensemen Deryk Engelland to talk about the fans and when he used to play for the Las Vegas Wranglers.
Marc-Andre Fleury talks about return from injury, playing Pittsburgh
Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury talks about what he expects when he plays against his former team as well as how he feels returning from a long injury layoff.
Golden Edge: Knights Lose In Overtime To Hurricanes
Golden Edge host Bryan Salmond, Review-Journal reporters David Schoen and Steve Carp go over the Golden Knights loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Engelland: The lack of intensity cost the Golden Knights
Golden Knights Deryk Engelland says that the team's lack of intensity coming out of the gate against the Carolina Hurricanes cost them.
Gallant on the Golden Knight loss to the Hurricanes
Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant discusses the team's loss to the Carolina Hurricanes which snapped a 4 game win streak.
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant on injured forward Will Carrier
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant talks to the media on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, on injured forward William Carrier. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant on the upcoming 5-game homestand
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant talks to the media on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, about the importance of the upcoming five-game homestand that starts Tuesday vs. Carolina. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on his concussion
Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury talks to the media on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, about why he stayed in the game Oct. 13 and about his concussion symptoms after second-period collision. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on his return
Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury talks to the media Monday, Dec. 11, about how hard it was to be away from his teammates while he was injured. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights marketing VP says team has big plans to grow the game
Golden Knights marketing VP Kim Frank said the initiatives already launched by the team have been well-received. (Steve Carp/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local youth hockey coach impressed with Golden Knights’ commitment
Local youth hockey coach Jeff Bruckner is impressed with the Golden Knights' commitment to growing the game. Bruckner says the Golden Knights wants more kids to play. (Steve Carp/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Murray Craven confident youth hockey will grow in Southern Nevada
The Golden Knights senior VP Murray Craven says patience is the key to long-term success. Craven says he is confident that youth hockey will grow in Southern Nevada. (Steve Carp/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Edge: Knights Sweep Two-Game Road Trip
Review-Journal reporter David Schoen recaps tonight's Golden Knights game against the Dallas Stars.
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant on Saturday's win over Dallas
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant on the team's win over Dallas on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights' Gerard Gallant on sitting Shea Theodore at Dallas
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant on Shea Theodore, who was scratched Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, against Dallas. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant on Friday's 4-3 shootout win at Nashville
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant on Friday's 4-3 shootout win at Nashville. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith on Malcolm Subban
Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith on Malcolm Subban's performance Friday at Nashville. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith on his shootout goal
Golden Knights forward Reilly Smith on his shootout goal Friday at Nashville. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Edge: Knights Win In Overtime Against Predators
Review-Journal reporter David Schoen recaps the Golden Knights game against the Nashville Predators.
By the numbers: Expectations, challenges for Las Vegas’ WNBA team
The newly relocated Las Vegas WNBA franchise will begin play in the 2018 season. New owners MGM Resorts will integrate a professional franchise into Las Vegas’ busy sports landscape that’s shared with the 51s, Lights FC, Golden Knights and Raiders. Here are some of the expectations and challenges the team will have. 1. Ticket prices: The key to any sports franchise is selling season tickets and group outings. For Las Vegas’ team, that starts with locals. "(You don’t) just open the doors and tell everybody you’ve got a game and stand there waiting to sell tickets," 51s president Don Logan said. "You’ve got to get out, you’ve got to get out into the community and you’ve got to do everything we do. There’s no easy way." Last year, San Antonio charged $12 to $165 for single-game tickets for 17 home games. 2. Creating an identity: Coach Bill Laimbeer inherits a team from San Antonio that hasn’t made the playoffs or had a winning season since 2012. Las Vegas' team is also a franchise that lost its first 14 games last season before finishing a league-worst 8-26. 3. Patience will be required: Will they have to fill all 12,000 seats at Mandalay Bay for the season to be deemed successful? "They have to be realistic," Connecticut Sun CEO Mitchell Etess said. "If they could get 5,000 bodies into every single game, that would be pretty good for the first year."
VGK University: Introduction to hockey, and much more
Vegas Golden Knights officials Misha Donskov and Murray Craven chat about VGK University, a five-course instructional for hockey fans, at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Dec. 3, 2017. (Ron Kantowski/ Las Vegas Review Journal)
Nate Quote
Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt is leading the team in time on ice. He talks about the adjustment to the style of play in the Pacific Division, as well as his pregame "Magic trick" ritual. (Steve Carp/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights goaltender Maxime Lagace on starting in goal
Golden Knights goaltender Maxime Lagace talks about his journey to becoming the starting goaltender Saturday, Nov. 12, 2017 at City National Arena. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt
Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt talks about goaltender Maxime Lagace at City National Arena. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights forward William Karlsson
Golden Knights forward William Karlsson on the team's blue-collar mentality. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant
Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant talks about his team's accountability in the locker room. (David Schoen/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Golden Knights players stand ready to help Las Vegas heal following Sunday's mass shootings
Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Jon Merrill discusses what it means to him and the team to offer help to the community following the mass shooting that took place on Sunday.
TOP NEWS
ad-infeed_1x2_1
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Events
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like