LAS VEGAS — — Shea Theodore and Reilly Smith scored 46 seconds apart early in the third period to lift the Vegas Golden Knights over the Seattle Kraken 4-2 on Tuesday night.
It was the second meeting of the NHL’s two newest franchises. Vegas beat Seattle on opening night, 4-3.
After a 1-4 start to the season while missing several key components, the Golden Knights are on a 6-2-0 surge.
Vegas has lost Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson, Zach Whitecloud and Nolan Patrick to injuries since the beginning of the season. Recently acquired Jack Eichel is scheduled for neck surgery Friday and expected to miss three months.
But through resiliency, a stalwart core of defensemen, and players making the most out of their opportunities, the Golden Knights are just four points back of first-place Edmonton in the Pacific Division.
“I’ve liked our response,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “We were at a little bit of a crossroads there, especially with the schedule at that point — we were heading to Colorado and Dallas. And the guys that were injured were gonna be out for a long time. So I thought our group from that point on recommitted to defending hard. And we’ve been getting great goaltending, and some timely goals, and found a way to win some games.”
Timely goals stole the momentum for Vegas in this one as Theodore one-timed a pass from Jonathan Marchessault past Seattle goalie Chris Driedger just 30 seconds into the third to break a 2-all tie. Smith scored less than a minute later when he deflected a one-touch pass from Marchessault on a power play.
It was Marchessault’s third multi-point performance in six games.
Alex Pietrangelo and Evgeni Dadanov also scored for the Golden Knights (7-6-0). Robin Lehner, who has won three straight and five of his last six starts, made 25 saves.
“When we were 1-4 there and people were asking us, most of us said we weren’t panicking,” said Lehner, who has a 2.30 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in his last six starts. “We have a lot of belief in our group and our depth and our system. I think it’s slowly getting there. We’re fighting hard right now to stay in games, getting points, waiting for some key players to come back, but I think everyone is stepping up and we’re working really hard to stay in the race.”
Driedger, making his first start and second appearance of the season, stopped 19 shots. Jordan Eberle and Yanni Gourde scored for Seattle (4-8-1), which has lost four of five.
“We’re finding ways to lose instead of trying to find ways to win,” Eberle said. “I think we just have to find a way to be a more mature hockey team in situations where we have momentum.”
Eberle put Seattle on top early when he corralled a rebound off Lehner and backhanded the puck into an empty net for his seventh goal in seven games.
Pietrangelo tied it after skating to the high slot and wristing a shot over Driedger’s glove with 26 seconds left in the first.
Near the end of a relatively sluggish second period, Seattle briefly took a 2-1 lead when Gourde took a pass from Brandon Tanev and flipped the puck past Lehner. Dadanov tied it 15 seconds later when he chipped a loose puck near the crease past Driedger.
“It’s frustrating when you work that hard to maintain a lead and keep it, and then you blow it like that,” Eberle said.
Paul Cotter made his NHL debut for Vegas, skating on the fourth line with Brett Howden and Jonas Rondbjerg. … In his first game back from a lower-body injury, Marcus Johannson assisted on Eberle’s goal. Johansson’s last game was in Vegas on opening night of the season. … Eichel, the newest Golden Knight, attended the game and cranked the rally siren before the opening puck drop. … Tanev’s assist was his 100th career point. … Gourde blocked a shot in the second, left the ice, came back and scored his goal — and then left after two shifts in the third. … In a matchup of teams with the two worst power plays in the league, both scored with the man-advantage. Seattle went 1 for 4, and Vegas finished 1 for 2.
Seattle: Opens a six-game homestand vs. Anaheim on Thursday.
Vegas: Plays the second of a six-game homestand vs. Minnesota on Thursday.