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Ian Maule / Associated Press

Linesman Caleb Apperson (77) attempt to break up a fight between Colorado Avalanche defenseman Josh Manson, center, and Vegas Golden Knights center Tomas Hertl (48) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Sunday, April 14, 2024, in Las Vegas.

Updated 2 hours, 25 minutes ago

The Golden Knights needed to show they were better than a recent mediocre stretch and prove they were ready for the fast-approaching Stanley Cup Playoffs Sunday afternoon at T-Mobile Arena.

It didn’t look like it was going to happen for most of the game, but Vegas eventually pulled off the feat by overcoming a three-goal deficit and beating the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 in overtime. Tomas Hertl redirected a Jack Eichel wrist shot past Alexander Georgiev on a power play at 1:22 of the extra period for the deciding goal.    

Hertl, the Golden Knights’ biggest trade-deadline acquisition in a deal with the Sharks, has taken to his new home fast with goals in back-to-back games and points in three of four contests since returning from knee surgery. 

“It looks like he’s found his way pretty well,” Eichel said of Hertl afterwards in the locker room. “I give him a ton of credit. It’s not easy to come back from an injury early in the season and join a new team. He’s done all that and it seems like the transition has been pretty seamless for him.”

The victory was the Golden Knights’ second straight, and perhaps more importantly, snapped a three-game losing streak against fellow Western Conference playoff teams in the last regular-season opportunity to do so.

The eight-team field in the West’s postseason is set with Vegas having already clinched the final spot Friday night by beating the Minnesota Wild. The only thing left to figure out is the exact seeding.

Despite Vegas’ victory over Colorado, the Golden Knights still look most likely to land in the second and final wild-card spot with a series at the Western Conference-leading Dallas Stars to start the postseason.

The Golden Knights have two regular-season games remaining — they host the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday and the Anaheim Ducks Thursday — and likely need to win both while hoping the Los Angeles Kings trip up to escape the Dallas fate.

The Avalanche were on a second leg of a back-to-back on Sunday after losing 7-0 in Winnipeg on Saturday but showed no signs of fatigue early. It might have been a factor late, though probably not as much of one as the Golden Knights’ doggedness to claim a victory.

“I like having one of those (games) where we’re not at our best and we stuck with it,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said in his postgame news conference. “I think it would have been easy tonight to say, ‘Let’s go build our game, do some things in the third (period) and worry about our next one and next week.’ It’s good that they pushed back. I want to win. I think that will help the group collectively going into the playoffs.”  

Only one team looked title-worthy in the game between the last two Stanley Cup champions through the first-period-and-a-half of the game. Colorado skated circles around Vegas early, but goalie Adin Hill turned away a couple dangerous scoring chances.

That only lasted for so long.

At 7:26 of the first period, Golden Knights center William Karlsson committed a turnover in the team’s offensive zone that sent Avalanche winger Miles Wood rushing towards the net. Wood dumped the puck to linemate Ross Colton, who fired a wrister past Hill before he could seal the side of the net.

Hill also gave up another avoidable goal later in the period when star defenseman Cale Makar blasted a shot from the slot over his shoulder.

Hill has now given up at least three goals in nine of his last 10 starts but gave reason for optimism with improved play down the stretch against the Avalanche.

Colorado’s third goal was not on Hill as Vegas’ defense inexplicably failed to account for one of the NHL’s more gifted goal-scorers in Mikko Rantanen, who tapped in a pass from Josh Manson in front of the Vegas net.

A game that looked like it could have been 2-1 was suddenly 3-0.

Minutes before, Hertl had deflected in a shot from the blue line by defenseman Ben Hutton but Colorado coach Jared Bednar challenged for goaltender’s interference.

The sell-out crowd booed mightily when the official announced the goal had been overturned. Contact indisputably occurred but replays made it look like Georgiev was out of the protected area.

“It looked like from our vantage point it would stay on the board,” Cassidy said. “The call on the ice usually finds a way to stay. (But) I didn’t feel like, I don’t think our guys felt like we were out of it. We just needed something good to happen.”

The controversial call only seemed to motivate Vegas the rest of the way, and “something good” happened to start the third period. 

Ivan Barbashev  powered in a goal after wrapping around in the opening minutes.

“I just think we found another gear to be perfectly honest,” Cassidy said. “We got some pucks to go, scored around the front of their net which I think we have to get to.”

Power-play persistence later paid off as Karlsson went top-shelf past Georgiev from the faceoff circle off a pass from Pavel Dorofeyev. Georgiev had previously made his biggest save of the day on an odd-man rush where Hertl set up Dorofeyev with a golden scoring opportunity at the end of the second period.

But the goalie who was pulled the day prior after letting in four early goals to the Jets didn’t look as quick the rest of the game.

“That’s what happens on back-to-backs — Either you’re slow starting or it catches up to you later,” Cassidy said. “They’re a well-conditioned team, but it just kicked in for us.”

Karlsson, to be specific, kicked Vegas into gear. He scored another goal with less than four minutes remaining off a pass from Hatton, who notched the assist Vegas felt he was owed earlier on the overturned goal.

Hertl earned his own comeuppance too with the game-winning goal.

“It’s always nice to score in overtime and get a winner,” Hertl said. “Hopefully there are a lot more.”

The end of the regular season hasn’t all been smooth for the Golden Knights, but they might be headed in the right direction now after rallying against the Avalanche.

The dominant third-period and overtime showed it won’t be easy for any opponent to overwhelm the Golden Knights in the playoffs.

“It was a good comeback, good resiliency from our group,” Eichel said. ““I think your game is not always going to be perfect. You’re not going to love every aspect of it but you’ve got to battle and compete. We’re obviously trying to work towards something.” 

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or

Article written by #LasVegasSun