LAS VEGAS (AP)Reilly Smith scored two goals, Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves and the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Florida Panthers 5-3 on Saturday night.
The Golden Knights completed a five-game homestand 5-0-0 and catapulted to the top of the Pacific Division, where they lead Edmonton by three points. The Oilers have two games in hand, and the teams play three more times down the stretch.
Vegas improved to 9-3-2 under coach Peter DeBoer, who replaced fired Gerard Gallant on Jan. 16. The Golden Knights’ five-game win streak is their highest of the season.
Tomas Nosek, William Carrier and Max Pacioretty also scored for the Golden Knights.
Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov and Aleksi Saarela scored for the Panthers. Sam Montembeault, making just his 24th career start, made 34 saves.
Florida took an early 1-0 lead when Hoffman kicked a rebound to his stick and knocked it past Fleury just 3:28 into the game. It was Hoffman’s 24th of the season, second-highest on the team. Nosek tied the game when he gathered a loose puck in the slot and sent a wrist shot under Montembeault’s pads midway through the first.
Dadonov gave the Panthers a 2-1 lead just 42 seconds into the second period with his team-high 25th goal. With a beautiful display of passing, Aleksander Barkov took Keith Yandle’s pass and fed Dadonov, who chipped it past Fleury for the 200th point of his career.
Carrier got his seventh goal of the season when he lasered a wrist shot from the circle that caromed into the net off of Montembeault’s glove. Later, with 52 seconds left in the second, Shea Theodore stole the puck from Aaron Ekblad and raced in on a 2-on-0 rush with Pacioretty, who fired a shot off the side of Montembeault’s torso, making it three straight goals that went off Florida’s goalie.
Smith matched his jersey number by scoring 19 seconds into the third period, as he buried Jonathan Marchessault’s pass top shelf for his 24th goal of the campaign.
Saarela cut into Vegas’ lead when he punched in a shot over a cluster of players in the crease. Vegas coach Peter DeBoer challenged the goal, thinking Hoffman interfered with Fleury. But after review, it was ruled Hoffman was pushed into Fleury by Vegas defenseman Nick Holden.
Smith iced the game with his career-high tying 25th goal, which he originally set during the 2015-16 season, when he played with the Panthers.
NOTES: Alec Martinez is one game shy of playing in the 600th of his career. … Las Vegas-native Gage Quinney became the first Nevada-born hockey player to play in an NHL game when he made his debut in the starting lineup. … Theodore’s assist on Pacioretty’s goal was his 41st point, tying the franchise record for points by a defenseman originally set by Colin Miller during the team’s inaugural season in 2017-18.
Florida: Visits Arizona on Tuesday
Vegas: Visits Anaheim on Sunday
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