LAS VEGAS (AP) — While the Chicago Blackhawks have struggled to play consistent hockey for a full 60 minutes, the Vegas Golden Knights counted on 20 good ones Tuesday night.
Trailing 2-1 heading into the third period, Vegas scored four unanswered goals, including Reilly Smith’s go-ahead winner three minutes into the final frame, as the Golden Knights beat the Chicago 5-2.
Vegas, which swept the season series 3-0, also got third-period goals from Brad Hunt, David Perron and Tomas Nosek. Ryan Carpenter also scored and Marc-Andre Fleury had 29 saves for Vegas, which snapped a two-game home losing streak.
“There’s not a lot of panic in this room, that’s for sure,” said Smith, who’s tallied 11 points in the last eight games. “When we’re down by a goal in the third period, we know we can battle it out. It’s just one shot to get us back into it, and Huntsy did a great job in giving us that.
“We were finding a lot of opportunities tonight. The first two periods the opportunities were there, we just weren’t putting them in the back of the net. It seemed like once we got one the floodgates kind of opened so that was nice to see. It just took us the third period to do it.”
One night after Arizona ended a nine-game losing streak to the last-place Blackhawks, the Western Conference-leading Golden Knights sent Chicago to its season-high seventh straight loss. The Blackhawks have been outscored 29-12 during their losing streak.
“It’s frustrating because through and through our lineup, we don’t have a response when we need it,” Jonathan Toews said. “We need to find ways to bounce back and stay in those games and not get frustrated and not let that noise or the crowd or a bad call or a goal against us sink our ship. It’s pretty frustrating for us to give up a handful of goals in a row and give up the momentum the way we did again.”
Tommy Wingels and Alex DeBrincat scored for the Blackhawks, while Jeff Glass stopped 32 shots.
“It’s the same thing that’s plagued over the past month or two, we can’t string 60 minutes together,” Wingels said. “We felt good about ourselves going into the third, and they scored two quick ones. It’s just a theme of the whole season. It’s frustrating that’s for sure.”
Said coach Joel Quenneville: “This is probably as tough as I’ve seen, it’s not fun. Everyday we’re trying to find a way to get the team enthused, I know it’s not easy, it’s hard to be positive. We can’t accept that this is the way it is.”
The Golden Knights wasted no time in seizing control early in the third period, with three goals in less than five minutes. First it was Hunt tying the game at 2 when he ripped a wrist shot past Glass for a power-play goal. Moments later, Smith took a pass from William Karlsson and sniped Glass for his 17th goal of the season. Then it was James Neal stealing the puck in neutral zone and setting up Perron on the break to beat Glass low on the glove side.
Vegas coach Gerard Gallant credited Fleury with keeping the Golden Knights in the game, coming up with several big stops after letting Chicago’s first two goals in.
“It’s just about trying to stop the next one, and keep the game close,” Fleury said. “They’re a good team, they come fast. I always believed in our chance to come back and score some big goals. If I can keep the games close we’ll be in good shape.”
The Golden Knights, who have scored a power-play goal in 10 of their last 11 games, were 1-for-6 with a man advantage.
Wingels got things going 2:10 into the game when he camped out in front of Fleury on a power play and tipped in Erik Gustafsson’s one-timer from the point.
The Blackhawks rank 29th in the league on the power play but converted one of their two opportunities against a Golden Knights team that has the league’s sixth-best penalty kill at home.
Vegas tied it three minutes later when Carpenter dug the puck out from behind the net and stuffed it between Glass’ left pad and the post.
Shortly after Fleury stymied Patrick Sharp’s penalty shot, the Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead when he kicked DeBrincat’s rebound back to him and he scored the 21st goal of his rookie season.
Nosek’s empty-netter provided the final margin.
NOTES: Chicago’s Artem Anisimov played in his 600th career game. … Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who has been out since late December with an upper-body injury, took some shots during a morning skate in Phoenix. Chicago did not have a morning skate in Vegas. … With an assist on Carpenter’s goal, Vegas defenseman Deryk Engelland tied a career high in points in a season with 17. … With his assist, Karlsson is one point shy of 100 in his career.
Chicago: Hosts Anaheim on Thursday.
Vegas: Hosts Edmonton on Thursday.