In a tight Pacific Division race that has just three points separating first and fourth place, the Vegas Golden Knights can point to their performances in the third period as the reason they hold a slim lead heading into a Saturday night game against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Las Vegas.

The Golden Knights lead the NHL with nine third-period comebacks, including a 2-1 win over the visiting San Jose Sharks on Thursday.

With Vegas trailing 1-0 entering the final period, Paul Cotter tied the contest at the 6:22 mark when he rifled a shot from the right circle past Kaapo Kahkonen’s blocker on a two-on-one break with Jack Eichel.

The Golden Knights then pulled out the victory with just 18 seconds left on William Carrier’s seventh game-winning goal of the season. Carrier fired the puck into an open right side of the net off a quick crossing pass from Chandler Stephenson.

It was the fourth consecutive win for Vegas, the team’s second-longest winning streak of the season behind a nine-gamer from Oct. 24-Nov. 10.

“I think we have confidence in ourselves going into the third that if we’re down a goal, or if the game is tied, we feel pretty comfortable about finding ways to win,” Eichel said. “I think that’s a good thing for us.

“I would love it if we were going into the third with leads more often and we weren’t chasing games. But it’s good to see we’re able to find ways to win and come from behind when we’re not leading going into the third.”

The Golden Knights have also found a way to win without an effective power play.

On Thursday, Vegas tied a team record set in its first-ever NHL game on Oct. 6, 2017, at Dallas when it went 0-for-7 on the power play. The Golden Knights are just 1-for-28 on the power play since Jan. 14.

“When you don’t score on the power play, sometimes the energy feels bad and guys start panicking,” Carrier said.

Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy was asked if the latest come-from-behind victory was a character-builder.

“Yeah, it sure is,” Cassidy replied. “It’s not easy to win in this league. We’ve talked about being comfortable in low-scoring games. We stuck with it. We came back in the third period. It’s not easy to do in this league.”

Speaking of low-scoring games, Tampa Bay comes in off a 1-0 shootout loss against the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday in Tempe, Ariz. The Lightning had a chance to win it in the final seconds of overtime, but Nikita Kucherov’s shot from the bottom edge of the right circle clanged off the far post.

Arizona’s Connor Ingram made 47 saves and also stopped Kucherov and Brayden Point in the shootout. Steven Stamkos scored in the shootout for the Lightning, but the Coyotes, who also got a shootout goal from Nick Schmaltz, won it on Clayton Keller’s goal in the third round.

Tampa Bay was playing the second game of a road back-to-back that began with an emotional 4-3 shootout win over the Colorado Avalanche in the high altitude of Denver on Tuesday in a rematch of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final.

“I thought we did a lot of good things defensively,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after the Arizona game. “We didn’t give them a whole ton, but I think we got tired. In the third period, you could tell. Getting in at 3:30 in the morning last night, by the third period, we were a little tired and we saw what happened.

“Goalies put on a clinic. It comes down to a skills competition at the end and they won it. That was it. Am I upset with our team? Not in the slightest.”

It marked the first time Tampa Bay was shut out this season.

–Field Level Media