Photo by Beau Bearden.
LAS VEGAS – Erik Haula knew what he and the Las Vegas Golden Knights were up against Friday night against the Los Angeles Kings – a two-time Stanley Cup champion and talented goalkeeper in Jonathan Quick.
While Quick made save after save for the Kings, Haula snuck one past him in the second overtime to give the Knights a 2-1 win in front of 18,588 at T-Mobile Arena.
“That’s one of the best feelings in sports I think – finishing the game in that fashion,” Haula said. “It was a long game. We had a lot of guys play a lot of minutes and so did they. It’s very rewarding to come out on top.”
Las Vegas now takes a 2-0 lead to L.A. for Game 3 Sunday night. The Golden Knights obviously have Haula to thank for the game-winner, but goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleury was just as instrumental with 29 saves.
“It was very thrilling,” Fleury said. “I have had long games before, but to be home in Vegas and for the fans to see a second overtime in a playoff game for the first time and being a part of it and ending on the winning side is a great feeling.”
In the other net, Quick put on a show as he finished with 54 saves. The Golden Knights finished with a 56-30 advantage in shots on goal – including a 35-20 margin in regulation.
“I thought we played a hell of a game tonight – did we have almost 60 shots?” said Las Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant. “I thought we had a lot of great scoring opportunities. We had great chances in overtime to win that game earlier.”
Las Vegas had to keep playing, but it made sure no one played more than 38 minutes, with Nate Schmidt leading the team at 37:19. The Kings, meanwhile, had Alec Martinez (44:43) and Oscar Fantenberg (41:03) out on the ice for more than 40 minutes.
“When you just go to overtime you try to play the same way,” Huala said. “I thought we played a good 60-minute game. We kept pressing and we kept talking more in the locker room that we don’t have to change much, but just clean it up a little bit and just keep playing the same way.”
The Golden Knights opened the scoring when Jonathan Marchessault’s attempt went wide and bounced back to Alex Tuch who was waiting in front of the net for the easy 1-0 advantage at the 14:47 mark of the first period.
It was not only Tuch’s first playoff goal, but it came on a power play as Las Vegas finished 1-for-4 on those opportunities.
The Kings responded with 4:05 remaining in the second period as Paul LaDue tied it 1-1 on a power play goal.
Neither team could find the back of the net in the third period or first overtime, but Haula made sure he came through in the second overtime. However, he knows the Golden Knights have a tough battle ahead in Game 3.
“We did our job at home and now we go there and go to their building,” Haula said. “It’s going to be harder. They are going to be better and we know that. We have to be better and it’s going to be a grind for sure.”