Karlsson scores 2 vs former team, Knights top Columbus 6-3
By W.G. RAMIREZ, Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) — After practice on Monday, William Karlsson acknowledged there was a part of him that would be playing with a chip on his shoulder when the Vegas Golden Knights faced Columbus.
Plucked from the Blue Jackets last June during the expansion draft, Karlsson scored two goals against his former team to help the Golden Knights beat Columbus 6-3 on Tuesday night.
“It’s special for me. I still have a lot of good friends there, a great group of guys,” said Karlsson, who has a career-high 42 points and is tied for second in the NHL with 27 goals. “I’m happy with tonight. Two points, got two goals, so overall it was a good night.”
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots and Brad Hunt, Colin Miller, James Neal and Erik Haula also scored for Vegas. Jonathan Marchessault, David Perron and Shea Theodore added two assists apiece.
With the win, the Pacific Division leaders stayed right behind NHL-best Tampa Bay, which defeated Nashville 4-3 in overtime. The Lightning have 69 points to top the overall standings, and expansion Vegas is second with 68.
“Everyone’s trying to give each other confidence,” Theodore said. “We’re playing well right now and I feel like that makes everyone a better player. When you’re playing such good hockey as a team, everyone’s doing their own job. I think we’re all doing that, including myself. I feel like I have that confidence to skate up the ice. I think I’m starting to play the best hockey I’ve ever played.”
The Blue Jackets, playing for just the second time in 12 days, got goals from Markus Nutivaara, Josh Anderson and Matt Calvert. Sergei Bobrovsky made 32 saves.
“I just don’t think we were competitive enough,” coach John Tortorella said. “I thought we had some good minutes along the way, but overall we just lost too many battles on the puck. They’re a quick team, they capitalize on winning battles.”
Karlsson opened the scoring when he snagged a rebound and backhanded it past Bobrovsky. Columbus tied it 1-all when Nick Foligno moved in on an odd-man rush and slipped a backward pass between his legs to Nutivaara, who sent a wrist shot past Fleury.
While the teams split the faceoffs in the first period, Columbus was the aggressor early, outshooting the Golden Knights 14-13 and controlling the tempo while peppering Fleury with several opportunities.
Moments after the Golden Knights squandered a 2-on-1 opportunity early in the second, the Blue Jackets capitalized on a 3-on-1 break when Anderson punched in his 15th goal of the season to give Columbus a 2-1 lead.
It didn’t take long for Vegas to respond, as Marchessault won a faceoff to Nate Schmidt, who found Miller cross-ice for a one-timer that beat Bobrovsky.
With nine seconds left on a power play, Hunt scored his first goal of the season to put the Golden Knights back in front.
“I’m not going to sleep tonight, I don’t think,” said Hunt, who also had two assists. “It’s such a cool feeling. The guys have been cool with me all year. It’s a big family. Everybody’s a big brotherhood in here. To get that first goal, to get it off your shoulders is real special, especially to do it at home. It’s awesome.”
Neal, who will represent Vegas in the All-Star Game along with Fleury, extended the lead when he and Haula eased their way in on a 2-on-1 break to beat Bobrovsky, who had a .932 save percentage and 2.15 goals-against average in his previous six games.
“The second period, by far, was our best period of the year. We really competed and battled hard,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. “It seems our team, when we’re behind, we’re battling back, and we find ways to get those goals.”
Karlsson tacked on his second goal of the night midway through the final period to push Vegas ahead by three.
Calvert’s goal came with a little more than seven minutes left but was too little, too late to provide the Blue Jackets any momentum.
Haula’s empty-netter provided the final margin.
Foligno said the Blue Jackets weren’t distracted at all in Las Vegas.
“We were fully prepared for this game. We were here three days before,” he said. “Yeah, you’re excited. I was excited to play here. It’s a new arena, a new team, the atmosphere was great. So, if anything it should help your game, not hurt it.”
NOTES: Gallant was an assistant with Columbus for four seasons, including the team’s expansion year in 2000. … Vegas improved to 21-1-0 when scoring the first goal of the game, best in the NHL. … Columbus came in with the worst power play in the league, converting at just a 13.3 percent clip, and finished 0 for 3 with the man advantage.
Blue Jackets: At the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.
Golden Knights: Host the New York Islanders on Thursday.
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