Kolesar scores 1st NHL goal, Golden Knights top Blues 5-1
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Keegan Kolesar was at the Vegas Golden Knights’ first development camp in 2017. That was long before the franchise had a practice facility, embarked on a wild inaugural season that finished in the Stanley Cup Final, and before captain Mark Stone arrived in town.
On Monday night, Stone scored twice and Kolesar was the star of the show.
The 23-year-old rookie scored his first NHL goal, Robin Lehner made 15 saves and the Golden Knights beat the St. Louis Blues 5-1.
“A long time coming,” said Kolesar, who scored on his 21st shot of the season, firing home a rebound after St. Louis goaltender Jordan Binnington blocked Nic Hague’s shot from the point.
The goal sent his teammates and the announced crowd of 3,750 into a frenzy in celebration for Kolesar.
“I think my reaction, and the bench reaction, says it all,” Kolesar said. “I think they might have been more excited than I was.”
Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson added goals for Vegas, which improved to 4-0-0 on the second of back-to-back games.
One night after having their five-game win streak snapped in Los Angeles, the Golden Knights earned their season-high fifth straight home win while improving to 13-2-1 at home, tying Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders for the most home wins this season.
“There’s no doubt there’s a confidence and composure to the group that, no matter the situation, we know what our game looks like when we’re playing well and we’re not,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “I think the guys have the ability to get back to that game when we need to.”
Vince Dunn scored for the Blues, who were playing their fourth road game in six days. Binnington finished with 30 saves.
“Basically it boils down to they wanted the game more than us,” St. Louis coach Craig Berube said. “They dug in more, won more puck battles, made more plays, skated better. That’s why they won the game.”
The Golden Knights scored first when Marchessault gathered the puck off a faceoff on the right dot, and from a bad angle, was able to sneak one under Binnington for his ninth goal of the season.
Vegas, which has outscored opponents 28-15 in the first period this season, has now allowed just five goals in the opening frame in the last 20 games.
The Blues got on the scoreboard midway through the second, when Dunn skated in and collected a loose puck after Lehner kicked out a wraparound attempt by Vladimir Tarasenko and fired a shot through traffic and into the far top corner, tying the game 1-1.
It was St. Louis’ first second-period goal in three games. The Blues have been outscored in the middle frame 37-31 this season.
It took only 80 seconds for the Golden Knights to break the tie, as Stone’s attempt to center the puck ricocheted off Jaden Schwartz’s skate. Stone gathered the puck and fired it off Dunn’s shin pad and past Binnington to put Vegas back in front.
Karlsson and Stone added power-play goals late in the third period, after Kolesar’s milestone goal, to ice the game for Vegas.
“If you look at the way we’ve been playing the last month or two, our record is really good,” Stone said. “We’re winning in different areas. That’s what good teams do; we find ways to win hockey games. Tonight, we played our fifth game in eight days, coming in on a back-to-back with travel. We had to play smart, and I thought we did a good job. Third period, I thought we got our legs and pounded four lines out the door.”
Monday’s game was a make-up from Jan. 28, after Golden Knights’ defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, and a member of the Vegas coaching staff entered the NHL’s COVID protocols.
Vegas’ penalty kill, which came into the game tied for sixth in the league, stopped St. Louis on both of its power-play opportunities.
Vegas’ original top line of Marchessault, Karlsson and Reilly Smith has played together since the Golden Knights’ expansion year, when the team was labeled the Golden Misfits. The trio is approaching 600 points combined as Golden Knights, now at 585. Marchessault has 204 points, Karlsson has 203, and Smith has 178. Only six other trios have ever hit 600 points in their first four years with a franchise.
Vegas’ Shea Theodore registered his 100th assist with the Golden Knights. St. Louis’ Robert Bortuzzo is now one game shy of playing in his 400th career game.
St. Louis: Closes out its five-game trip at Minnesota on Thursday.
Vegas: Opens a two-game series in Colorado on Thursday.