Evgenii Dadonov scored twice, Nic Roy got the game-winner in the third period and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Florida Panthers 5-3 on Thursday night.
Brett Howden and William Karlsson each added a goal for the Golden Knights. Logan Thompson made 33 saves as Vegas snapped a five-game losing streak and moved into eighth place in the Western Conference with 70 points, one point in front of Dallas, with 19 games to play.
Coming into the game, the Golden Knights were 4-10-1 with the second-fewest points (9) since Feb. 9. In that span, Vegas also scored the second-least goals (33) and ranked last in the league with goals-for per game average (2.20).
The Golden Knights, who have endured injuries to many of their top offensive stars throughout the season, have scored 12 goals in their last three games.
“I’m proud of our group, our resiliency all year,” Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said. “I know we had a tough road trip from a win-loss record, but the group never quit. They never mailed it in, they worked every one of those games. It wasn’t perfect, but they stuck with it. I haven’t had a group face as much adversity as this group’s had thrown at them.
“That was a gutsy win tonight.”
Sam Bennett, Carter Verhaege and Sam Reinhart also scored for the Panthers. Spencer Knight finished with 27 saves.
Moments after Reinhart tied the game 3-3 with 7 1/2 minutes left in the third period, Bennett fell down during an attack in the offensive zone and tried to pass the puck from his knees. Roy intercepted the puck and skated away on a breakaway, deked Knight with a forehand-backhand, and roofed a shot into the net.
Karlsson’s empty netter with just less than two minutes remaining — his first goal in 16 games — gave Vegas its two-goal cushion.
“They were the most desperate team, they wanted it more,” Florida interim coach Andrew Brunette said.
Thompson, meanwhile, might have been Vegas’ best player on the ice, coming up with several spectacular saves against a Florida team that came in ranked No. 1 in the league since Dec. 29 with 4.62 goals per game, and that ranked third in the league over that timeframe with 48 points (23-6-2).
“I’m gonna play every team the same,” Thompson said. “Obviously I know they got a lot of firepower and they’re a great team. Today I felt I had a good warm-up and I was really dialed and things went my way.”
The Panthers, playing their fifth road game in their last six outings, lost their first game in regulation in March, dropping to 6-1-1.
Verhaeghe got the scoring started when he made the most of a second effort to beat Thompson. After cutting across the slot and getting stopped with a backhand, Verhaghe beat Vegas defenseman Alex Pietrangelo to a loose puck and snapped a shot from his knees to the back of the net at 8:04 of the first period.
After missing seven games with an undisclosed injury, Howden splashed his return with the equalizer when he skated in from the left circle and beat Knight with a quick wrist shot with 2:51 left in the first.
Dadonov put Vegas in front at 5:38 of the second when he cut to the middle and blasted a shot by Knight. He notched his second multi-goal game of the season when he positioned himself in front and redirected Shea Theodore’s shot into the net just five seconds into a power play with 5:28 left in the middle period to make it 3-1. It was Dadonov’s fourth goal in the past six games.
Bennett cut Vegas’ lead to one when a scramble ensued in front of Thompson, drawing him from the crease a bit too far. Bennett corralled the puck and punched it home from the doorstep with 2:22 to go in the second.
Going into Thursday, the Golden Knights were missing: forwards Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Reilly Smith; defensemen Alec Martinez, Brayden McNabb, and Nic Hague; and goaltender Robin Lehner. Also, defenseman Ben Hutton is in COVID protocol.
Finally, after blocking a shot in the second period, Vegas’ prize acquisition in November, Jack Eichel, left briefly to the locker room, returned to the bench later in the second, but did not return to the game after the break due to an upper-body injury.
NOTES: Aaron Ekblad, who had three assists, set the Panthers’ franchise record for most points by a defenseman (291). “It’s been a fun ride so far. I’ve learned a lot along the way and I wouldn’t be anywhere near that without my teammates. As much as it’s an individual accomplishment, it’s a team accomplishment,” Ekblad said.
Florida: At Anaheim on Friday.
Vegas: Hosts Los Angeles on Saturday.
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