LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Golden Knights hoped to give Las Vegas a reason to cheer when they opened their first ever homestand days after a mass shooting jarred the city.
Consider this a jackpot for Las Vegas’ first major professional sports franchise.
Oscar Dansk got his third win in his third career game, and Vegas beat the Colorado Avalanche 7-0 Friday night to extend the best start ever by an NHL expansion team.
The Golden Knights won six of seven during their first string of home games. Their Oct. 10 home opener came nine days after 58 people were killed and nearly 550 were injured when authorities say Stephen Paddock rained gunfire from the windows of a 32nd-floor hotel suite into a crowd of country music concertgoers.
Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said the team talked a lot about doing its part to keep “Vegas Strong” — the mantra adopted by the city in the aftermath of the shooting.
“It definitely had a big impact,” Gallant said. “It was a tragic night and our players really responded to it. They went out and they supported the city of Las Vegas and they did the best they can. When you come to the rink at that time, that first game, that meant a lot to see that ceremony. It meant a lot to them. It just carried over to our team.”
The Golden Knights improved to 8-1-0. They’ve won five straight, matching the longest winning streak ever by a team in its inaugural season, joining the New York Rangers (1926-27) and Edmonton Oilers (1979-80), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Dansk stopped 32 shots in his second career start. The 23-year-old has been thrust into action after injuries to starter Marc-Andre Fleury and backup Malcolm Subban and has allowed three goals on 74 shots — a .960 save percentage.
“I’ve just been trying to work in practice and keep up with the pace with the guys,” Dansk said. “Goalie coach Dave (Prior) has been on me quite a bit, keeping me strict with everything, all the details. It’s been unexpected, but a lot of fun.”
James Neal got his seventh goal, and David Perron, Oscar Lindberg, Cody Eakin, Jonathan Marchessault, Erik Haula and William carrier also scored. Nate Schmidt had two assists.
Semyon Varlamov allowed all seven goals on 21 shots.
“We’ve been through tough losses,” Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “We’re a different team this year. We’re going to bounce back tomorrow.”
As the Golden Knights tacked on each goal, Dansk said his confidence grew.
“It gives you breathing room, because hockey is such a tight game,” Dansk said. “I just try not to worry about it too much. I just try to stay focused in my own thoughts and keep focusing on my next save.”
After a scoreless first period, Colorado outshot Vegas 10-1 during the first eight minutes of the second. The Golden Knights then scored four goals over the final 11:10 of the period.
Perron began the barrage after intercepting Nail Yakupov’s pass and using a nifty deke to backhand the puck over Varlamov’s stick.
Three minutes after Perron scored, Lindberg made it 2-0 when he stole the puck in the neutral zone, beat three Avalanche defenders and then bested Varlamov.
Eakin notched his first goal of the season after Neal drilled a pass off the end boards. Neal later tipped in Collin Miller’s wrist shot from the right point, extending Vegas’ lead to 4-0.
In just his second game off the injured reserve list, Marchessault poked home a loose puck five minutes into the third to make it 5-0. In his first game off IR, Haula smacked a one-timer from Marchessault for a power-play goal to make it 6-0.
Carrier took a pass from Brad Hunt and went stick side past Varlamov to finish the scoring.
NOTES: The Golden Knights will play eight of their next nine games — and 14 of their next 20 — on the road. … After a 4-1-0 start, the Avalanche are in a 1-4-0 skid. … Colorado played 11 back-to-back games last year, finishing 4-7 on the back end. It is now 0-2-0 in the second game of the first two of the 11 it will play this season. … Colorado defenseman Tyson Barrie had a six-game point streak snapped.
Colorado: Hosts the Blackhawks on Saturday night.
Vegas: Plays the Islanders in Brooklyn on Monday night.