Alex Tuch skated down the right boards staring at the empty net mouth.
He fired the puck into the www.mushiku.com/9-maurice-richard-jersey-c-1_12.html twine, triggering an eruption of cheers from the record-setting crowd inside T-Mobile Arena, as Kings’ defenseman Drew Doughty crushed his hockey stick in half against his own goal post in anger.
Tuch's goal in the final seconds ensured a 4-2 victory for Vegas, and pulled it within one point of the Pacific Division-leading Kings. The first regular season meeting between the teams was packed with the most animosity of any game to date for the Golden Knights.
“It was awesome,” Tuch said. “This was one of the more fun games I’ve played in. I don’t mind the occasional (blowout) win but when you’re battling and you pull off that close win against your rivals, I guess you could say now, it was a fun game.”
Tuch wouldn’t quite say it but the atmosphere spoke for itself — The Golden Knights and Kings are rivals, and Sunday night was only the beginning.
It started in the stands, as the Los Angeles contingent started, “Go Kings go,” chants only to be drowned out by the Golden Knights’ portion of the 18,211 packed in the arena with “Go Knights go!”
“I sit there and listen on the bench every once in awhile,” Tuch said, laughing. “The, 'Go Kings Go' chant was shut down within like five
seconds every time. I loved it.”
Golden Knights fans weren’t the only thing to silence the Kings’ chants. William Karlsson’s goal only 55 seconds into the game certainly quieted the bunch.
Vegas raced out to a quick 3-0 lead, prompting the pulling of all-league goalie Jonathan Quick after only 11 minutes. The Kings then turned to their physical, bruising style of hockey.
“It was definitely a physical game and I was really happy with the way our team responded,” coach Gerrard Gallant said. “Tonight was a physical, banging game and our team stood up tall.”
The Golden Knight that took the most punishment along the boards was David Perron.
“I loved it,” Perron said with a smile. “It’s fun to play hockey that way. I’ve played against the Kings a couple times in the playoffs with St. Louis and Anaheim so the heat always comes pretty quickly for me and this team and I like it.”
Perron was involved in a couple post-whistle wrestling matches, as was William Carrier, but no fights took place during the contest.
“It gets a little chippy at times obviously because you throw out a big hit and someone gets mad,” Tuch said. “They have a couple fighters on their team but we weren’t here to fight. We were up 3-0 so that gives us no reason to drop the gloves because if they get energy from the fight they could be right back into the game.”
Vegas outshot Los Angeles 40-29, dominating www.news4pal.com/tie-domi-jersey-c-1_24.html the play for most of the game. The Kings did rally, pulling within a goal in the third period, and it magnified the intensity. Goaltender Maxime Lagace made a save and the rebound sat in the crease. Seconds later, nearly every skater on the ice was dog piled in front of the goal, tripping over each other as they fought for the puck.
Lagace eventually found the puck through the madness and covered it up.
Gallant said Vegas didn't change its style of play, but the numbers indicate otherwise. The Golden Knights landed 38 hits compared to the Kings’ 26.
“There are no friends on the ice, just ask (Brayden) McNabb,” Tuch said. “It was a good battle and you mix it up with some guys and that’s what hockey is.”
McNabb, playing against his former teammates, led the Golden Knights with four hits, including a massive collision with Doughty along the blue line.
“It was a lot of fun,” McNabb said. “It was a little weird at first for sure since I’m usually on that side. You try and put the distractions aside and play your game and I thought I did that.”
The Golden Knights haven’t been around long enough to build a heated rivalry yet, but this game was a step in that direction. Vegas improved its record to 12-6-1 with 25 points — only one fewer than the Kings, but the Golden Knights have played only 19 games to the Kings’ 21.
"Both teams really wanted this game,” Lagace said. “You could see both teams wanted the two points and it was a huge game and a great team win.”
If the Golden Knights can keep this pace up, a playoff series with the Kings could be in their future. Tonight certainly felt like one.
“It’s always intense in this building,” Lagace said. “It’s crazy how loud the fans are and it definitely felt like a playoff game.”
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