ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — At some point, the rest of the NHL is going to have to take the Vegas Golden Knights seriously.
Maybe at this point.
Jonathan Marchessault had a goal and two assists Wednesday night, rallying Vegas from a two-goal deficit to a 4-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks that left the Golden Knights in an unexpected position — first place in the Pacific Division.
Their third consecutive win moved them a point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings, who lost to Winnipeg.
Not bad for an expansion team.
“We’re playing hard for each other and we have a good, solid group of guys,” Vegas forward James Neal said.
“When you have that through your lineup, when you have a good combination of goal scoring, quickness, physicality, there’s no reason why you can’t be successful and compete every night.”
Neal and William Karlsson each had a goal and an assist for the Golden Knights. They outshot Anaheim 49-19, but trailed 2-0 before Marchessault’s power-play goal with 53 seconds left in the second period.
Vegas then scored three times in the third to make a winner of goalie Maxime Lagace, who stopped 17 shots. Colin Miller also had a goal, and David Perron added two assists.
Josh Manson and Derek Grant scored for the Ducks, who had won three in a row. John Gibson made 45 saves after stopping 50 shots in his previous start.
“You can’t rely on the guy in the net to stand on his head. He did that tonight,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. “The score was 4-2 and it could have been 10-2. That’s how good he played.”
The Ducks opened the scoring in the first period when Manson skated through three defenders and put the puck between Lagace’s pads.
They went up 2-0 in the second on a power play, when Grant deflected a long shot by Hampus Lindholm past Lagace.
“We thought we were playing a better game than the score showed,” Karlsson said. “We just wanted to stick with it.”
The Ducks, too, knew they were fortunate to be ahead even though the Golden Knights continually controlled the puck.
“Something needs to be figured out,” said Anaheim’s Andrew Cogliano. “The 2-0 lead wasn’t a true tale of the game. We just got lucky. The score should’ve been a lot more if we didn’t have Gibby in there.”
The game began to turn in the final minute of the second period when Vegas finally broke through against Gibson. Marchessault scored on a slap shot and the Golden Knights went on to put up four straight goals.
“Gibson made some unbelievable saves, but we just stayed with it and kept playing the game and found a way to get that big power-play goal,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. “From that point on we kept driving the puck to the net.”
Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore can sense the team’s belief in itself growing.
“I know we have it in this room. I know we believed in ourselves the entire game,” he said. “We had a strong first two periods. We didn’t score on all our chances, but we stuck to it. I felt like we finished the game strong.”
Vegas tied it early in the third on Miller’s goal and went ahead when Neal knocked in a rebound for his team-high 11th of the season. Karlsson added a late goal and suddenly, belatedly, the Golden Knights had a comfortable lead.
And the Ducks were left with plenty to think about.
“We had a lot of problems,” Carlyle said.
“A game like this kicks you in the head. Simple as that. I don’t know any more words to describe how poorly we played.”
NOTES: Manson’s goal was the 2,000th in Anaheim history and his third in four games. . Vegas, an impressive 8-1 at home, improved to 5-5-1 on the road.
Golden Knights: At the San Jose Sharks on Friday.
Ducks: Stay home Friday to play Winnipeg.