Golden Knights greet Kings looking to continue hot streak

NHL

The Vegas Golden Knights will attempt to break the franchise record for longest winning streak when they go for their ninth straight victory on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Kings in Las Vegas.

The Golden Knights won their eighth in a row on Friday with a 4-2 victory over Buffalo to match the team record set in its inaugural season (Dec. 14, 2017 to Jan. 2, 2018), when it went on to lose to the Washington Capitals in five games in the Stanley Cup Final.

Vegas is 12-3-2 since replacing Gerard Gallant with Peter DeBoer as head coach, including going 10-2-1 in February.

“It was a make-or-break month, there is no doubt about it,” DeBoer said.

“I think coming out of the All-Star break at the end of January, I don’t think there was any doubt that February was going to define our season. I thought the guys really dug deep and have really bought into playing with a foundation every night, and are hard to play against defensively, and the offense has come.”

Reilly Smith scored two third-period goals to increase his season total to a career-high 27, and Robin Lehner, acquired at Monday’s trade deadline from Chicago, made 32 saves to win his debut with the Golden Knights.

Lehner gave up a goal to Dominik Kahun on the first shot he faced but then stopped the next 30 before Jeff Skinner tallied with just 11.8 seconds left.

“I figured let’s get the first goal over with and just move on,” Lehner deadpanned afterward. “Obviously, a tough play to start with but it doesn’t really matter. It’s just next shot and try and save every puck we can.”

“I thought the goalie was great,” DeBoer said.

“That’s not an easy spot to go in. You’re following one of (Marc-Andre Fleury’s) best games of the year (a 3-0 shutout of Edmonton). Your first home game — the pressure was on. The team is on a win streak, and you don’t want to be the one to break that. It was a tough game for me to stick him in, and I thought he responded really well.”

Lehner won’t have to worry about breaking the streak against the Kings. DeBoer, who wants to keep both goaltenders fresh down the stretch, announced that Fleury would start Sunday.

Los Angeles, which occupies the cellar in the Pacific Division, also played well at the end of February, compiling a 5-2-1 mark over the last eight games, and comes in with a two-game winning streak. The Kings, who begin a nine-game homestand following the contest with the Golden Knights, will be playing the second game of a back-to-back that began with a 2-1 overtime victory over New Jersey on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center.

Adrian Kempe scored the game-winner in overtime and Jonathan Quick finished with 32 saves to lead the Kings, who had defeated Pittsburgh, 2-1, behind a 35-save performance by Cal Petersen on Wednesday.

“Good goaltending, and special teams have performed well,” Los Angeles coach Todd McLellan said when asked the reason for his team’s recent success. “It allows us to stay in games and to try and win the games. But the goaltending — both Quickie and Cal — has been outstanding this little home streak. We’re going to need it again tomorrow.”

–Field Level Media

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