LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Vegas Golden Knights have managed to stay on top out West in spite of injuries and uncertainty.
As they reached the halfway point of an already-eventful season, a false positive test for COVID-19 by forward William Karlsson earlier in the day gave them just another bit of adversity to overcome.
Karlsson had the winning goal, Max Pacioretty scored twice and the Golden Knights beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-2 on Friday night.
“This team takes every night seriously and every period seriously,” Pacioretty said. “If we have a bad one, someone always kind of speaks up and lets everyone know. There's no room for this club to sleep for a period, for two periods or for a game.”
Karlsson put Vegas back in front 3-2 with 4:45 left in the second period by tipping Jonathan Marchessault’s shot from the point. Karlsson had multiple negative tests in the afternoon that cleared him to play, but coach Pete DeBoer still had to prepare multiple contingencies in the event he and other players might be unavailable.
“It’s a stressful day, both for him waiting to see if it’s a real positive or a false and all the close contacts that have been around him because it affects everybody," DeBoer said.
Robin Lehner made 23 saves as the Golden Knights won their fifth straight. It was the first start for Lehner since Feb. 7 because of a concussion.
Jonathan Quick made 29 saves, and the Kings have dropped three of four.
Pacioretty got his third and fourth goals during a five-game point streak to spot the Golden Knights a 2-1 lead after the first. He buried a one-timer from the slot at 10:17 off a centering pass by Mark Stone
Pacioretty’s second goal, his 16th of the season, wasn’t quite as clear cut. A lengthy video review by the league’s situation room was required to determine the puck crossed the line while in Quick’s glove off Pacioretty’s backhand at 12:53.
By the time William Carrier scored his first of the season to make it 4-2, deflecting Nicolas Hague’s shot at 10:34 of the third, Kings coach Todd McLellan had already seen too much “loose” and “sloppy” play in the critical defensive areas by his team.
“We were very poor in about 40 square feet of ice in front of our net, whether it was tip-ins, defections, pass outs from below the goal line,” McLellan said.
The Kings pulled back a goal with 17.2 seconds left in the first when a charging Alex Iafallo chipped in the rebound of Anze Kopitar’s shot to make it 2-1.
Trevor Moore tied it up 2-all for the Kings at 6:18 of the second, redirecting Matt Roy’s shot from the blue line in.
“We take a punch or two to the face and then we get ourselves off the mat, we continue to battle. And now that’s in our game, that’s in our DNA. That’s a moral victory. I think we’re a better team than we played tonight. I think we showed ’em a little too much respect and disrespected what we’re capable of doing,” McLellan said.
Lehner was tested early by 12 shots in the first period, but the Golden Knights lightened the load for him by limiting the Kings to 13 shots the rest of the way.
“It’s not easy to come back after such a long time off, and he kind of picked up and fit in right away, which is nice to see,” Pacioretty said.
Pacioretty has nine points in his past five games. Stone has four goals and four assists during a six-game point streak, in addition to a point in each of the last 10 games he has appeared in after missing the March 8 game against Minnesota. Defenseman Shea Theodore extended his run of games with a point to six by notching the primary assist on Pacioretty’s second goal.
Karlsson became the second player in the Golden Knights’ brief history to reach 200 points, getting there in his 255th game. Marchessault leads the franchise with 202 points, but Karlsson leads his line mate in all-time goals with 89.
The Golden Knights and Kings will play again in Los Angeles on Sunday.
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