ANAHEIM, Calif. — Chandler Stephenson scored two goals in the first period and the Vegas Golden Knights cruised to their franchise-record ninth consecutive victory, 5-1 over the last-place Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night.
Stephenson had the first three-point night of his career, while Shea Theodore and William Karlsson got goals against their former team as the Knights rolled toward their fourth straight playoff appearance. William Carrier also scored for Vegas, which completed the season series with seven wins over Anaheim in eight meetings.
The Knights lost forwards Tomas Nosek and Nicolas Roy to undisclosed injuries early in the game, but Vegas still hasn't lost since April 7 with just nine games left in the regular season.
“It’s an impressive run,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “I don’t care who you’re playing to win nine in a row, and we’ve done it all kinds of different ways. The bottom line is I think our foundation has been good every night, which gives us a chance to win. Tonight was a real dig-deep win."
Robin Lehner made 23 saves in his second win at Honda Center in nine days. The veteran goalie blanked the the NHL’s worst offensive team 4-0 in Anaheim on April 16.
“As a group, we’re scoring up and down the lineup,” said defenceman Alex Pietrangelo, who had two assists. “That alleviates some of the pressure on the top guys. If we’re not scoring on the power play, we’re creating momentum. We’re scoring from the (defence) more. All of that contributes.”
Sam Steel scored for the Ducks, who have lost four straight and nine of 12. Anaheim is playing out the string on its first stretch of three consecutive non-playoff seasons since 2002.
“They’re obviously a team that’s hitting their stride right now, and it’s all at the right time," Ducks defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “Top to bottom, they’re playing championship-calibre hockey from the net out. Measuring ourselves against them, we weren’t close in those games. The effort is there, but they’re a team that’s swarming, and they do a lot of things to make it hard on you.”
John Gibson stopped 26 shots for Anaheim, but the goalie is winless in eight consecutive home starts since March 8.
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf didn't play in the final two periods due to an upper-body injury.
“We’ve got a number of our top players not in our lineup, and they’re a team that is not in a rebuild,” Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins said. “They’re a Stanley Cup-contending team, and we’re going to have to play just a full 60 minutes of no mistakes to contend with them. Our turnover rate was high, and if you turn over the puck like that, they will make you pay.”
Stephenson opened the scoring just 28 seconds in after a turnover by Anaheim's David Backes. Max Pacioretty threw a backhand pass from the goal line into the slot, extending his points streak to a career high-tying seven games with the assist.
Later in the first period, Theodore threaded a beautiful outlet pass past two napping Ducks to set up a breakaway for Stephenson, whose quick release beat Gibson's blocker for his 12th goal.
Pietrangelo then made a sharp pass through two Ducks defencemen to Carrier, who buried it for his fifth goal.
Steel broke up Lehner's shutout bid with a rebound goal while on one knee in the Knights' crease early in the third period. Steel's goal was his first since March 28.
Karlsson added his 10th goal in his last 13 games against the Ducks on a rebound moments later.
Vegas extended its lead atop the West Division to four points on Colorado, but the Avalanche have two games in hand. The rivals meet two more times this season, including Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena.
“We’re going to be playing for something here right to the end of the season, fighting for first place,” DeBoer said. “I like that we’re playing the top end of the division here down the stretch. I think it’s going to get us ready.”
Golden Knights: Host Avalanche on Wednesday.
Ducks: At Kings on Monday.
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