Surging Knights face off with Oilers' in-form duo
With just 11 regular-season games to go, the defending Western Conference champion Vegas Golden Knights look to be rounding into playoff form heading into a Sunday night game against the visiting Edmonton Oilers.
The Golden Knights are 7-1-0 in their past eight games, allowing a total of 10 goals in the seven victories. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who leads the league with eight shutouts and 35 wins, is on a personal six-game win streak during which he has allowed just five goals.
"We play our best hockey when we defend real well like we have recently," Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. "When we get our exit from our D-zone and defend real well, that's when we play our best hockey."
Outside of a 6-3 loss at Calgary on March 10 with backup Malcolm Subban in goal, the Golden Knights have allowed more than two goals just once in their past eight games. Vegas is coming off a 2-1 victory at Dallas on Friday.
"I don't care who scores or how many goals we get, it's all about winning hockey games," Gallant said following his team's practice on Saturday. "I think our group is the same way. Come out and play hard and play well, do the right things defensively, and we'll get enough goals to win. That's what we're trying to do. Fortunately, the last seven of eight we've played pretty good hockey."
And nobody has played better than Fleury. The 34-year-old veteran is two shutouts away from matching his single-season high of 10 set in the 2014-15 season with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"I think he's playing great, but he's always played great," Gallant said. "We've never had a letdown with Fleury."
The Golden Knights' defense and Fleury figure to be put to the test by a desperate Edmonton team. The Oilers, behind two goals and an assist by Connor McDavid, including the game-winner 58 seconds into overtime, closed within seven points of the second Western Conference wild-card spot with a 3-2 overtime win at Arizona on Saturday night.
McDavid enters Sunday second in the NHL with 103 points and also riding an 11-game points streak (five goals, 16 assists). Leon Draisaitl, second in the league with 42 goals, added an assist in the win for his 90th point of the season. He has notched points in 11 straight road games.
It is the first time since 1989-90 -- when Mark Messier had 129 points and Jari Kurri had 93 -- that the Oilers have two 90-point players.
"We ask a lot of Connor and Leon, and they delivered," Edmonton coach Ken Hitchcock said after the win over the Coyotes. "They really delivered for us tonight."
Over the team's past 16 games, McDavid (five goals, 17 assists) and Draisaitl (10 goals, 14 assists) have combined for 15 goals and 31 assists. McDavid also now has seven straight multi-point games dating back to March 2.
"Everybody has to be aware of him on the ice," Gallant said of McDavid. "He's one of the best players in the NHL for sure. Nobody in the league can skate like him, his speed. So you've got to be aware, you've got to be ahead of the game when he's on the ice and make sure you know where he's at. Every team tries to stop him, but he's got (103) points, so he's done a pretty good job."
This is the third of four meetings between the two teams and the first one in Las Vegas. The Golden Knights won the first one, 6-3, on Nov. 18 before the Oilers prevailed 2-1 on Dec. 1. McDavid had a goal in each contest while Draisaitl totaled a goal and two assists in the two games.
--Field Level MediaHome