Rick Scuteri / AP
Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024 | 10:42 p.m.
It’s not unusual for the Golden Knights to use defense to win games. They’re relying on that right now and it’s paying off.
The Golden Knights held an opponent to two goals or fewer for the ninth time in their last 13 games and have won their first two games coming out of the All-Star break with a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes at Mullett Arena on Thursday.
It’s a simple formula: When the Golden Knights hold the opposition to a low score, they win. In those nine instances, the Knights have outscored the opponent 33-14. In the losses during this 9-3-1 stretch, they’ve been outscored 17-8.
It’s helped they’ve gotten great goaltending lately. While Adin Hill didn’t see a ton of action in his 20-save performance on Thursday, he improved to 4-0 since returning from injury and has given up just seven goals in that stretch.
Jonathan Marchessault, Nic Hague and Chandler Stephenson scored for the Golden Knights (31-15-6) in their seventh win in nine games, and answered their signature win Tuesday against Edmonton with their first ever win in Arizona State University’s arena.
“I think we understand as a team where we our this time of the year. It’s part three of the season,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “The teams that expect to be playing deep into the spring, they get their game in order. I can see it with our guys. We know we have to play winning hockey.”
Considering how the game started, the Golden Knights got their offense early and often.
All three goals came in the first period within a span of 6:17. Marchessault opened the scoring 19 seconds in, then Hague scored 58 seconds later for a 2-0 lead.
Stephenson scored at 6:17, two minutes after Jason Zucker scored for Arizona, to supply all the goals Vegas needed.
Despite the Coyotes getting a goal from Clayton Keller three minutes into the third, the Vegas defense did enough. The Coyotes had the shot-attempt advantage at 5-on-5, 65-56, but only 11 total shots found Hill during the first and third period combined.
“I think we had a really good start,” forward Ivan Barbashev said. “It’s nice to score on the first shift. Gets the team going.”
Cassidy tinkered the lineup in what was a slight surprise. Daniil Miromanov made his season debut, his first NHL action since recovering from a torn ACL, in place for Zach Whitecloud on the right side of the third pairing.
Cassidy didn’t provide a reason why for the switch, but he said Miromanov provided good moments. He and Hague were on the ice for 11 shot attempts for while giving up 11 at 5-on-5. The duo wasn’t on the ice for either goal allowed.
“I thought he did some good things,” Cassidy said. “I thought he was clean with the puck for the most part.”
The immediate thought goes to giving Whitecloud a day off and letting Miromanov get a game. The Golden Knights won’t practice again until Saturday.
“We want to build some consistency into our game,” Hague said. “We were obviously happy with how we played against Edmonton. The mindset was, ‘let’s keep it rolling.'”