The Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights will begin a six-game road stretch on Sunday night when they face the Arizona Coyotes in the second game of a back-to-back.
It will be the first time that Vegas faces Arizona at its new temporary home, 4,600-seat Mullett Arena on the Arizona State campus in Tempe. And when asked about the prospect of playing in a cozy college arena for the first time, defenseman Alec Martinez, who starred at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, had one question.
“Is the ASU band going to be there?” Martinez said with a smile. “That’s one thing I definitely miss. The Miami hockey band was pretty stellar. Obviously we’ve never been there (Mullett). I’m interested to see how it’s going to go and what it’s going to feel like. Excited to get back at it (Sunday).”
It was a much more upbeat locker room for the Golden Knights after they snapped a season-high three-game losing streak with a lopsided 6-2 victory over the Alex Ovechkin-less Washington Capitals on Saturday night in Las Vegas. Ovechkin was out with a lower-body injury.
Martinez started the scoring with a goal just 2:17 into the contest and assisted on a Nicolas Roy goal that made the score 2-0 a little over five minutes later. Vegas built a 5-0 lead before the midway point of the second period before cruising to the finish line.
It was the first goal of the season and first since April 27, 2022, for Martinez, who swatted in a rebound of a Chandler Stephenson shot that went off the post.
“We don’t need to talk about that,” Martinez said. “That’s pretty embarrassing that’s it took me that long. Obviously pretty happy to get that monkey off my back.”
The Golden Knights, called out by coach Bruce Cassidy for their lack of effort and intensity during the losing streak, finished their season-long seven-game homestand with a 3-4-0 record and a one-point lead over the Seattle Kraken in the Pacific Division.
“It’s definitely a momentum-changer,” Martinez said of the win. “Obviously this homestand isn’t what we want it to be, but we finished it off. … We’ve just got to keep it rolling on the road now.”
Because of the All-Star break and bye week, Vegas won’t play another home game until Feb. 12 against Anaheim. Considering the fact the Golden Knights are just 14-13-0 at T-Mobile Arena and 15-3-2 on the road, that might not be a bad thing.
Arizona, seventh in the Central Division, also will play the second game of a back-to-back. The Coyotes, who are 1-11-0 over their past 12 games but 8-7-2 at Mullett Arena, lost 4-0 at Central-leading Dallas on Saturday night.
Radek Faksa and Jamie Benn scored goals in the first five minutes, and that was more than enough for Dallas goaltender Jake Oettinger, who made 33 saves en route to his fourth shutout of the season.
“We’ve got to raise our level of play, our desperation and compete level, I think,” Coyotes defenseman Patrik Nemeth said. “We saw stretches of that during this game, but it’s not good enough to just do it for a few stretches here and there. We’ve got to bring that for 60 minutes.”
“I think they started really strong,” Arizona coach Andre Tourigny said. “It took a little while for us to get our legs under ourselves. When we did, after the first 10 minutes, it was too little, too late.”
This will be the third meeting between the two teams this season. Vegas won the first two on their home ice — 4-1 on Nov. 17 and 5-2 on Dec. 21.
–Field Level Media