CHICAGO (AP) With their potent lines, team speed and cohesive play, the Vegas Golden Knights look the part.
Nothing like an expansion team. More like Stanley Cup contenders.
Reilly Smith had a goal and two assists, and the Golden Knights topped the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 on Friday night for their ninth win in 10 games.
”We got away from our game a little bit, but being able to come out with two points feels really good,” said Alex Tuch, who scored the Golden Knights’ first goal.
Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson each had a goal and an assist as Western Conference-leading Vegas improved to 13-1-1 in its last 15 games. Cody Eakin also scored in the expansion Knights’ first trip to Chicago, and Malcolm Subban made 28 saves.
The game was tied at 4 when Smith stole a pass and beat Jeff Glass on a breakaway for his 11th of the season 13:53 into the third. The Blackhawks pulled Glass in favor of an extra attacker with about two minutes left, but the Golden Knights held on.
”I think we were running around a little bit in the third period,” Smith said. ”They were cycling the puck on us pretty good, but when you’re doing that it’s a little bit risky. I think we were just waiting for an opportunity.”
Vinnie Hinostroza had a goal and two assists for last-place Chicago, which was coming off a 2-3-1 trip. Jonathan Toews had a goal and an assist, and Glass finished with 38 stops.
”We’ve got to be better than that defensively,” coach Joel Quenneville said.
The Blackhawks trailed 3-1 before scoring three straight goals in their first home game since Dec. 17. Patrick Sharp scored his fifth of the season 7:53 into the second before Hinostroza set up goals by Nick Schmaltz and Toews, giving Chicago a 4-3 lead 30 seconds into the third.
Eakin responded with a big slap shot by Glass at 5:33, setting up Smith’s winner.
”Eaks’ was a big goal off the faceoff, then the Reilly Smith breakaway,” coach Gerard Gallant said. ”We found a way to win. We played really well at times, then at some times in the game we had a lot of trouble with their cycle in the offensive zone.”
Vegas also played Thursday night, losing 2-1 at St. Louis, but the Golden Knights still skated circles around the Blackhawks for most of the first period.
Moments after Vegas’ first power play expired, Marchessault’s shot was deflected by Karlsson before it caromed off Tuch’s left skate for his ninth goal at 4:44. Marchessault scored on a one-timer from the high slot at 15:49, making it 2-0 on the Golden Knights’ 18th shot.
The Blackhawks got one back on Hinostroza’s nifty deflection with 1:59 left in the first, but Karlsson restored the Golden Knight’s two-goal lead with a rebound score 5:54 into the second. Smith’s shot went off the boards behind Chicago’s net and got past Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook before Karlsson knocked it in for his team-best 21st.
”With every game, it’s just a little bit of inconsistencies,” Hinostroza said. ”Sometimes we’re really good. Sometimes we’re not so good. It’s something we want to change.”
NOTES: Blackhawks G Corey Crawford remains on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, and there has been no word on when he might return. Asked after the morning skate about how long Crawford will be out, Quenneville responded: ”I’d say indefinitely right now.” Quenneville indicated center Artem Anisimov, who is also on IR with an upper-body injury, is closer to returning to the ice, but did not provide any specifics. … The Golden Knights activated D Luca Sbisa from IR and placed D Jon Merrill on the injured list. Sbisa missed nine straight games with a lower-body injury. … Blackhawks F Ryan Hartman was scratched with an upper-body injury. Quenneville said he is day to day.
Golden Knights: Host the New York Rangers on Sunday night.
Blackhawks: Host Edmonton on Sunday.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap
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