VANCOUVER — Two nights after finally looking like an expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights got back to what's made them successful early in their first season — outworking opponents.
Erik Haula scored the go-ahead goal in the third period and Maxime Lagace made 19 saves as Vegas bounced back from its first ugly loss to defeat the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 on Thursday.
The Golden Knights were coming off a 8-2 blowout defeat at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers in a game where Lagace allowed seven goals on 29 shots, but tightened up defensively against a Canucks team that looked slow from the outset.
"You let up eight goals ... you can't pin that on the goalie," said Haula, who also had an assist. "Our goalies have been great."
The Golden Knights' fourth-string netminder after Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion), Malcolm Subban (lower body) and Oscar Dansk (lower body) all went down with injuries, Lagace didn't have a ton of work, although he did stop a Brandon Sutter breakaway in the second period, and made another pad save on Brock Boeser after Vegas went ahead 3-2 in the third.
"It's part of my job to come back after a performance where you probably wanted to have two or three goals back," said Lagace. "The guys played awesome in front of me.
"That's a team win."
David Perron, Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson each added a goal and an assist of their own for Vegas (11-6-1), while Reilly Smith scored into an empty net.
Boeser and Bo Horvat replied for Vancouver (9-8-2), which got 25 stops from Jacob Markstrom.
"We looked a step behind," said Canucks head coach Travis Green. "They looked a little quicker than us.
"Our team looked a little tired."
Vancouver, which returned home after wrapping up a 2-2-0 road trip with Tuesday's 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings, didn't offer much in the way of an attack for the majority of the night.
"It's not good enough," said Markstrom. "It's just small details."
After blowing a 2-0 lead in the second, the Golden Knights went back in front at 6:27 of the third when James Neal stripped Canucks defenceman Erik Gudbranson of the puck behind the net and passed to Perron, who quickly fed Haula across the top of the crease for his sixth goal of the season.
Perron now has two goals and seven assists in a six-game point streak, while Haula has four goals and four assists in his last six contests.
"Big game for us," said Perron. "It was a big two points and we can keep building on our season, we don't want to let it slip away."
The Golden Knights opened the year a surprising 8-1-0 — the best-ever start for an expansion team — but are just 3-5-1 since with Lagace in the crease.
For a goalie who expected to be battling for playing time in the AHL, the 24-year-old is soaking up this run.
"I'm smiling every day," said Lagace, who made his ninth straight start. "To win, it's candy for me."
After Haula gave his team the lead, Marchessault put the game out of reach with 3:05 left when he jumped on a horrendous Derrick Pouliot turnover to beat Markstrom for his fifth before Smith iced it into an empty with his sixth.
Down 2-0 following a first period where his team created next to nothing, Green shook up the lines in the second, and got some immediate results.
Boeser scored his sixth at 12:04 after a Vegas turnover went right to the rookie winger, and the Canucks evened things with 2:42 left in the period when Horvat slid his eighth, and second in an as many games, past Lagace.
The teams were actually sent to the locker-rooms with under a minute left in the period when a fan seated in one of the corners at Rogers Arena was hit in the head by an errant puck. One of the officials threw towels to nearby spectators to help with the bleeding, and the fan was eventually taken away on a stretcher by paramedics.
There was no immediate update from the Canucks on the fan's status.
The teams played the final 59.7 seconds of the period on a fresh sheet of ice before switching ends for the third.
The Golden Knights opened the scoring at 3:22 of the first when Perron toe-dragged around Daniel Sedin and ripped his sixth as Vancouver allowed the first goal of the game inside the first five minutes for the eighth time this season.
The visitors doubled their lead at the 13-minute mark when Alex Tuch won a puck battle behind the net with Pouliot before feeding Karlsson all alone in front for his seventh with Canucks defenceman Alexander Edler, who provided a partial screen on Perron's opener, standing still a few feet away.
"We came out strong," said Lagace. "When they gained a little momentum, we were right back at it.
"We know what we can do, we know we're dangerous when we play that way."
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