RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Golden Knights are giving Vegas an incredible, odds-beating story in their first year on the ice.
With a roster built on everybody else’s spare parts, this expansion team has the whole league playing catch-up.
James Neal and Jonathan Marchessault scored to help the Golden Knights beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1 on Sunday night, giving the first-year franchise the best record in the NHL.
The Golden Knights are 31-11-4, good for 66 points. That’s one ahead of Tampa Bay, which had the night off. Vegas is two wins shy of tying the record for wins by an expansion team, shared by the Anaheim Ducks and Florida Panthers in 1993-94.
Just don’t expect the veteran-heavy Golden Knights to get caught up in their unexpected standing.
“It’s an interesting story, and it’s still being written,” forward Colin Miller said.
Miller had a goal and two assists, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 27 saves for Vegas. The Golden Knights finished 2-1-1 on this road trip, including a 4-1 win Thursday at the Lightning.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Brendan Leipsic also scored for Vegas, which avenged a 3-2 shootout loss to Carolina in December. Neal got his 21st goal of the season, and Marchessault had his 17th.
This trip to Raleigh went much better for Vegas coach Gerard Gallant than his last. In his previous visit in November 2016, he was fired at the arena by the Florida Panthers. While the team bus took away his players, Gallant was left to wait for a taxi.
“I’m happy to be where I’m at, with the team I’m with,” Gallant said.
Tough to be upset from atop the NHL world. Not that Gallant is getting caught up in that just yet.
“Every guy in our room knows there’s a long part of the season left,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “We can’t worry about looking at the standings.”
Jaccob Slavin scored for the Hurricanes late in the first period on a power play. Goalie Scott Darling was lifted after allowing three goals on eight shots in the first.
Bellemare scored less than three minutes in, setting the tone. He took a nifty back pass from William Carrier, who drew two skaters and the attention of Darling. Bellemare put the puck through Darling’s legs for his fifth goal.
Miller and Marchessault scored 39 seconds apart in the first, leading Carolina coach Bill Peters to call his team’s timeout. He then signaled for Cam Ward to replace Darling.
Neal scored on a second-period power play, giving him at least 21 goals in 10 consecutive seasons. He gathered the rebound of Brad Hunt’s shot and poked the puck past Ward.
Carolina, which has lost five of seven, is last in the tight Metropolitan Division.
NOTES: Carolina played its second consecutive game without F Sebastian Aho, the team’s leader in goals and points. Aho has not played since suffering a concussion and an unspecified lower-body injury Jan. 14 against Calgary. … The Golden Knights are 20-1 when scoring first, and Carolina is 3-13-5 when trailing 1-0. … Miller’s goal broke an 0-for-19 skid on the power play for Vegas, which last had an extra-man goal Jan. 2 against Nashville. … Carolina’s Justin Faulk took two penalties in a span of nine minutes in the first and second periods. … Darling entered the game having been successful against Pacific Division teams, going 10-4-7 with a 1.89 goals against average.
Vegas: Hosts Columbus on Tuesday night.
Carolina: At Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.