Knights aim to keep rolling in four-game series vs. Coyotes

NHL Hockey

Thanks to the NHL trying to limit travel during its shortened 56-game regular season, the Arizona Coyotes and Vegas Golden Knights will be seeing a lot of each other over the next week.

The two West Division rivals begin a back-to-back series in Las Vegas on Monday night that concludes on Wednesday night. Then it’s off to Glendale, Ariz., where they play another back-to-back on Friday night and Sunday afternoon to end the four-game stretch.

Both teams opened the season without a regulation loss in their first series.

Arizona rallied to score a pair of goals in the final 3:30 of its opener to force overtime with visiting San Jose and gain a point in an eventual 4-3 shootout loss and then rebounded behind a pair of Phil Kessel goals and 31 saves by Antti Raanta to defeat the Sharks, 5-3, on Saturday afternoon.

Vegas swept its two games with visiting Anaheim, but it wasn’t easy. They scored three consecutive goals in the third period to win their opener, 5-2, and following that with a 2-1 overtime victory Saturday night.

Trailing 1-0, the Golden Knights pulled goalie Marc Andre-Fleury for an extra attacker with 1:50 remaining and William Karlsson forced overtime 28 seconds later with a one-timer from the low slot off a feed by Jonathan Marchessault. Max Pacioretty, who won the faceoff to begin overtime, then won it just seven seconds into the extra period when he fired in a one-timer off a Mark Stone pass from the bottom of the right circle past John Gibson for the game-winner. It was the fastest goal to start a period in team history.

“I liked our game better than I liked Game 1, and we won that in regulation, 5-2,” said Vegas coach Peter DeBoer, who credited Gibson’s goalkeeping for his team’s early scoring woes. “We talked about it between the second and third (periods). This is a veteran group, and we’ve been in these kind of frustrating games before where you’re facing a goalie that’s hot and offense is hard to come by.

“There was real good composure in sticking with it, and if it took overtime tonight, it was going to take overtime.”

Arizona’s Kessel is coming off an injury-plagued season with just 14 goals and 38 points in 70 games, the first time since the 2007-08 season he scored fewer than 20 goals in a season. So, his hot start — three goals in two games including one that forced overtime with three seconds left in regulation in the opener — is a very welcomed sign for the Coyotes.

“It’s good to get off to a good start after last season,” Kessel said. “It couldn’t (have gone) worse for me personally. So, it’s nice to start good and hopefully I can continue it.”

Arizona will be without standout defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who matched a career-high with three assists in Saturday’s victory, for at least the two games in Las Vegas. Ekman-Larsson had to be helped off the ice midway through the third period Saturday after landing awkwardly while being high-sticked by Evander Kane on a check behind the net and is listed as day to day.

“It’s unfortunate, but we’re going to have to step up right now, so it’s something we’ll deal with,” said Arizona coach Rick Tocchet. “The next three, four, or five days he won’t be available, and then we’ll evaluate from there.”

–Field Level Media

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