On Tuesday night, in just the second game of the 2021-22 regular season, fans were able to watch the NHL’s two newest teams in the Vegas Golden Knights and the Seattle Kraken duke it out. This game, which took place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, was highly anticipated given the fact it was the Kraken’s first game in franchise history. Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint, as both teams came out flying and maintained that high pace of play all night long.
The first period was all Golden Knights early on, as they were able to go up 2-0 less than seven minues into the contest thanks to goals from Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Marchessault. It was a shaky start from Kraken goaltender Philippe Grubauer, who allowed two goals on his first three shots.
“Our line didn’t play too much together in the preseason,” Pacioretty said after the game. “We wanted to make sure that right from the jump that we had our game from last year.”
The Kraken were able to settle things down from there, however. A good thing for Seattle considering this one looked like it could get ugly early.
Early on in the second, the Golden Knights came out flying once again and had a number of great chances to increase the lead to 3-0, none better than a Pacioretty shot in the high slot which he rang off the iron.
Around the midway point of the second period, Ryan Donato was able to score the first goal in Kraken franchise history as he deposited a rebound home after an original shot on net from Joonas Donskoi. That goal gave his team a huge momentum boost, and just a few minutes later they put another on the board, as Jared McCann was able to put one past Robin Lehner thanks to a nifty feed from Jordan Eberle.
From there on out, both teams traded more chances to close out the second, including another shot off the post for the Golden Knights, this one being from Marchessault. Though they still held a lead, it was evident that they no longer controlled momentum in the game as they had in the first period.
The third period started out fairly quiet until Kraken forward Morgan Geekie fired a laser over the glove of Lehner for a goal nearly halfway through the frame. It was one that the Golden Knight goaltender would likely want back, but was a tremendous shot nonetheless.
“That’s hockey for you,” Lehner said after the game. “They keep saying 3-0 is a dangerous score, but again, they played well. I thought they had a lot of good looks in the first period. I kind of felt like the second goal was goalie interference. But I didn’t feel any panic. That’s kind of the strength of this group. I think we have a lot of veteran guys and a lot of experience, and you just keep playing.”
Despite blowing a 3-0 lead, the Golden Knights didn’t let it affect them, and responded less than a minute later with a goal of their own from Chandler Stephenson. This one was looked at for a kicking motion but was determined to be a good goal. They had a chance to put a fifth goal up on the board not long after, as Alec Martinez rang a shot from the point off the post, marking the third time the Golden Knights rang iron in the contest.
With just over a minute remaining, the Kraken pulled their netminder to try and tie things up, though it was the Golden Knights who ended up with the first scoring chance as Pacioretty narrowly missed the yawning cage. The miss didn’t turn out to be costly, and they were able to walk away with their first win of the season.
Alex Pietrangelo looked incredible in what was the 800th game of his career. He was a positive for the Golden Knights on both the offensive and defensive side of the puck, giving them the kind of play they expected when they signed him to a seven-year, $61 million deal. Though he had an up and down first season in Vegas, he remains one of the best defenceman in the game, meaning efforts like tonight’s should be expected on the regular.
The Golden Knights struggled to get much going on the power play in this one, going 0-3 and failing to sustain a ton of pressure for the majority of their opportunities. Though it is just one game, it is somewhat worrisome given their power play struggles last season, where in 56 games they converted on just 17.8% of their chances. That ranked 22nd in the league, and will need to be improved upon if they hope to hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history next June.
While it still remains to be seen how the Kraken will do in the standings, they proved on opening night they won’t go down easy. They appear to be a very resilient team who will be a pain for opposing teams night in and night out. As the Golden Knights proved in 2017-18, expansion teams can be successful right away in the NHL.
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