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Home is where heart is as Golden Knights down Avalanche

The heart beats.

T-Mobile Arena is back rocking.

It’s a series again.

The Golden Knights on Friday night sought and earned a rebirth against Colorado in a best-of-seven West Division final, beating the Avalanche 3-2 before a delirious 17,504.

Colorado now leads the series 2-1 with Game 4 here on Sunday.

This is how you get back in things.

It would take two third-period goals 45 seconds apart to catch and then pass Colorado on an evening when the Knights — as in Denver for Game 2 — controlled much of everything.

This time, they were rewarded with victory as one of the league’s most passionate fan bases returned to its happy place.

Soaking in moment

The pregame warmups had ended and one figure remained on ice. Marc-Andre Fleury always does.

But this time, the Knights goalie slowly skated to one side and stopped, looking up at a scene and hearing a sound no Knight had enjoyed in what seemed like forever. The cheers grew louder as he soaked in the moment.

He then tossed a puck into the stands and slowly exited.

Hockey in Las Vegas as thousands came to know and embrace the past four years was back to its usual fever-pitch level, the first time this building has opened its doors to a full house since March 3, 2020.

“We had some fans at the beginning of the playoffs, but tonight was something else,” Fleury said. “You’re able to make a big save and people cheer like that … it gives you goose bumps. I’m getting some now. It gives you a great feeling.”

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr started things out by cranking the pregame siren, and two things stood out: If he plays this season with the same level of intensity as he turned that wheel, the offense will be even better than last year. That, and had Jon Gruden seen Carr’s arm flailing wildly away like that, the Raiders coach might have needed medical attention.

There is no question the sea of white towels and a pregame entertainment show that included a fire stick melting an avalanche — nice touch with that one — took care of an atmosphere advantage for the Knights. They have always enjoyed one but desperately needed it down 2-0 in the series.

And they played like it.

Where had we seen this before: The Knights forechecking with abandon, plugging things up so as to negate Colorado’s speed. They couldn’t have asked for a better effort 5-on-5 from a top line of Chandler Stephenson, Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty when matched against Colorado stars Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen.

Locked them up is right.

“It’s not going to be perfect every night,” said Pacioretty, whose game-winning goal at 15:27 of the third came off a redirect via a Nick Holden shot. “You don’t want to say we’re defending them. You want them to defend. That’s the way to play against top guys in the league.

“MacKinnon is the fastest guy in the league, and if you let him come out of his end, he’s going to make you pay. You want to keep them in their end and have them waste some energy.”

Limiting chances

Stat of the night?

Colorado was held to 20 shots on goal. It averaged nearly 35 in both the regular season and playoffs.

This after the Knights limited the Avalanche to 25 shots in Game 2.

They just aren’t giving Colorado much of anything right now.

So things shift to Sunday, the Knights with an opportunity to tie things up and Colorado a chance to win and return home for what would be a series-clinching victory should things fall its way. Long way from that.

But it’s going back to Denver regardless.

Do you hear that?

The heart beats. The Knights are again in this.

What a difference home makes.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached 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 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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