Golden Knights close out 2021 with dominating win over Ducks

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Dylan Coghlan (left), Adam Brooks (center) and Brayden McNabb (right) celebrate after Brooks' goal in the first period. Photo from Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review Journal.

The Vegas Golden Knights extended their lead in the Pacific division with a 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on New Year’s Eve.

Vegas now leads Anaheim by three points after picking up its 10th win of the month, and 62nd of the 2021 calendar year, the most by any NHL team. 

“It was critical,” assistant coach Ryan McGill said of the importance of the win. “It was a big win for us but I thought our start was, you know, it was the thing that set us up for the rest of the game.”

The Golden Knights were down several key players, including Mark Stone, Max Pacciotetty, and goalie Robin Lehner. But other members of the Golden Knights stepped up to lead Vegas to victory. 

“I think it’s huge,” center Nicolas Roy said of the depth of the team. “We’ve been dealing with a lot of stuff this year. Obviously with all the injuries going on and everything. So then we’ve been doing a really good job and have been the next men in creating opportunities for ourselves. So I think everybody’s stepping up and we did that again. tonight.”

Vegas’ third line of William Carrier, Roy, and Keegan Kolesar created a couple of scoring opportunities to put pressure on Anaheim goalie John Gibson. 

Roy put Vegas on the board midway through the first half after he deflected in a shot from defenseman Ben Hutton for a career high seventh goal of the season.

Later in the second period, left winger Adam Brooks gave Vegas a 2-0 lead when he deflected a shot from defenseman Dylan Coghlan that cleared the goal line, but was stuck inside the top of the net. There was a few seconds of hesitation before officials saw the puck was inside the net, and stuck on top, before the goal was official. 

With the injuries, Mattias Janmark found himself on the top line and he capitalized on his opportunity. 

Early in the second period, Janmark scored an unassisted goal on a rebound, after Gibson made a save of Kolesar’s scoring attempt right in front of the blue paint, giving Vegas a 3-0 lead. 

The play grew physical later on in the second period. Getzlaf and Kolesar each received five minute majors for fighting. In total, Anaheim registered 35 minutes of penalty time in the second period. 

Defenseman Brayden McNabb was at the center of the physical play for Vegas when he got into it with Ducks forward Derek Grant after he cross-checked Carrier. McNabb got into another fight at the end of the game after he hit Ducks forward Sam Carrick near the blue line.

“(McNabb)’s been consistent with his physical tone, and he understands that is his identity as a player, and he does it very, very well,” McGill said of McNabb. “There’s a lot of players that understand where he is on the ice, and that’s a great asset for him. He’s just been real consistent throughout the last 15, 20 games.”

Laurnet Bronssoit filled in for Lehner and registered 15 saves and held Anaheim off the scoreboard for the first 59:49 of the game. Getzlaf added the game’s final goal with 11.4 second remaining, ending Bronssoit’s shutout attempt. 

“The main goal is to win and so that feels good,” Bronssoit said on his lost shutout attempt. “But of course a shout out would have been nice and a little bit of a bonus, but it’s not going to ruin my night.”

Vegas outshot Anaheim 45-16 and the Ducks did not register their first shot on goal until eight minutes into the first period.

While the Golden Knights were down a couple of players, they welcomed back head coach Pete DeBoer after he missed time due to COVID protocols.  

The Golden Knights will host the Winnipeg Jets at T-Mobile Arena on Sunday at 1 p.m. for their first game of the 2022 calendar year. 

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