GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — James Neal’s first season with a brand new team is off to a dream start, for both Neal and the Vegas Golden Knights.
Neal’s goal at 3:46 of overtime Saturday night gave the expansion Golden Knights their second win in two games, 2-1 over the Arizona Coyotes.
Neal, who scored twice in the Golden Knights’ first regular-season game Friday at Dallas, completed a comeback that saw Vegas tie the score at 1 with 1:12 to play in regulation. Anti Raanta, in his first game as the new No. 1 goaltender in Arizona, stopped 42 shots.
“Yesterday is one of the best feelings I’ve had in hockey,” Neal said of Friday’s game. “We said we wanted to roll it up again today and get a big win and go home a happy team, and we did that.”
Vegas, unable to put a shot past Raanta for nearly the entire game, drew even at 1 on Nate Schmidt’s goal. The Golden Knights had pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with 2:18 to play for an extra attacker, and the move paid off.
Then Neal sent Vegas home winners.
“He’s hot right now, and he was big for us tonight yet again,” coach Gerard Gallant said of the 10th-year veteran whom the Golden Knights chose in the 2017 expansion draft. “We had a lot of shots and we competed and battled hard, and we got rewarded at the end of it.”
Fleury made 27 saves.
Raanta was sharpest in the second period, making 19 saves. The Coyotes earned their first point for new coach Rick Tocchet after losing their season opener at Anaheim on Thursday.
That game, as was the case Saturday, saw the Coyotes unable to hold onto a lead.
“We don’t want to use young guys as an excuse around here,” Tocchet said. “Once again, 40-some shots against, you can’t win in this league that way.”
The Coyotes have posted a 14-5-2 record in home openers since moving to Arizona from Winnipeg in 1996.
Tobias Rieder scored the Coyotes’ only goal, a rebound at 5:52 of the first period after Luke Schenn sent in the puck and Jordan Martinook took a shot that came out to Rieder.
Raanta, the new Coyotes goalie after Mike Smith was traded to Calgary after six seasons in Arizona, got some help from a post after the Golden Knights’ Tomas Nosek just missed the net at the 14:05 mark.
Raanta made a key save against Vegas center Jonathan Marchessault on a breakaway after a turnover at 12:01 of the second period.
About four minutes later, Raanta turned away Erik Haula’s attempt to stuff the puck from inside the crease. But he got the biggest ovation from the crowd after not allowing a goal during a 3-minute, 14-second stretch of a 5-on-3 power play for Vegas.
Raanta made his first appearance with the Coyotes since coming to the team via an offseason trade with the New York Rangers. He didn’t play in Arizona’s season opener though he’d been cleared for action after dealing with a lower-body injury that limited him in the preseason.
“Of course you want to take the two points, but we got one point, so better than nothing,” Raanta said. “We need to learn from this.”
Gallant said he liked his team’s energy in its first back-to-back set of road games.
“We talked about allowing too many shots the other night, and the guys did a good job. We took the fight to them,” Gallant said.
NOTES: A moment of silence was observed before the opening faceoff for the victims and families affected by the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas. … Coyotes players walked into Gila River Arena on a red carpet as part of opening night pregame festivities. The loudest ovation from the crowd was for D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, a longtime Coyote and alternate captain who played in his first home game since taking a leave of absence from the team near the end of last season. … LW Nick Cousins made his Coyotes debut as part of the Coyotes’ second line. He was acquired via trade with Philadelphia in the offseason.
The teams play each other in Las Vegas on Tuesday in the Golden Knights’ home opener.