Ducks end year with loss to Ve­gas

Antelope Valley Press - - Sports - By W.G. RAMIREZ

LAS VE­GAS — Ve­gas coach Ger­ard Gal­lant has been in­sis­tent all sea­son that his team would even­tu­ally find its win­ning form.

Head­ing into 2020, the Golden Knights look like the team that was fa­vored to con­tend in the Western Con­fer­ence prior to the sea­son.

Jonathan Marches­sault scored twice, Marc-An­dre Fleury made 26 saves, and the Golden Knights de­feated the Ana­heim Ducks 5-2 on Tues­day to ex­tend their run to 136-3 since Nov. 17.

“We’re a real good hockey team, I know that,” Gal­lant said. “We don’t play great hockey ev­ery night, like ev­ery other hockey team in the Na­tional Hockey League, but lately we’ve played real good hockey. Our guys know their roles, they try and do the most nights and tonight was a real good game again.”

Ve­gas has scored 71 goals dur­ing its 22-game run.

“We’ve al­ways been a fast team, but I think we’re able to play fast as a five­man unit ... be­ing able to move that puck past de­fense­men, get­ting the puck deep, forecheck­ing, caus­ing turnovers,” Alex Tuch said. “I wouldn’t say that we’re a huge tran­si­tion team, but

when we cause turnovers in the of­fen­sive zone we’re an at­tack-style team. We’re just try­ing to do the lit­tle things right and start to build more and more chem­istry ev­ery game.”

The Golden Knights, who re­mained in first place in the Pa­cific Di­vi­sion, closed out the month with a 9-4-2 mark and im­proved to 29-8-6 all time in De­cem­ber.

“Even early in the year, we were play­ing well but we were los­ing; we didn’t have puck luck,” Gal­lant said. “We’re work­ing hard and we’re get­ting puck luck. I don’t think we’ve had a bad sea­son; I’d like our record to be a lit­tle bet­ter than what it is now, but we’ve played good hockey for most of the year.”

It’s led to a long climb from sixth place in the eight-team Pa­cific, to the top of the di­vi­sion.

“We’re play­ing some good hockey right now and we worked hard to be there and we’re gonna work hard to stay there,” Marches­sault said.

Mark Stone, Tuch and Reilly Smith also scored for the Golden Knights. Fleury, who was se­lected to play in his fifth All-Star Game, also earned his 455th win to take over sole pos­ses­sion of sixth place all time, pass­ing Cur­tis Joseph.

Korbinian Holzer and Jakob Sil­fver­berg scored for the Ducks and John Gib­son made 38 saves while drop­ping to 2-8-1 against Ve­gas.

The Ducks con­tin­ued to strug­gle on the road, where they’re 6-12-2 this sea­son. They’ve also strug­gled against Ve­gas since it en­tered the league for the 2017-18 sea­son, go­ing 2-8-1 against the Golden Knights, in­clud­ing a 1-3-1 mark at T-Mo­bile Arena.

“It’s frus­trat­ing when we go out and we’re not ready to play,” said Gib­son, who came into the game tied for the sixth-high­est ca­reer save per­cent­age (.920) among NHL goal­tenders with at least 200 games played. “It’s a priv­i­lege to play in the Na­tional Hockey League and it feels like some guys are tak­ing it for granted.”

That may have been ev­i­dent with the game tied 1-1, and time run­ning out late in the first pe­riod.

Af­ter a scrum in front of Gib­son, the puck squirted loose be­hind him and Ana­heim’s Josh Man­son tapped the puck straight over the goal line, rather than clear­ing it, giv­ing the Golden Knights a 2-1 lead and Tuch his sixth goal of the sea­son.

And while Gib­son did his best to keep Ana­heim in the game, turnovers hurt the Ducks.

Down 1-0, the one-two scor­ing punch of Stone and Max Pa­cioretty once again sparked the Golden Knights. Af­ter Pa­cioretty forced Erik Gud­bran­son to turn it over in front of the net, Stone skated in and one-timed a per­fect wrist shot over Gib­son’s glove. Stone and Pa­cioretty have been on the ice for 45 of Ve­gas’ 128 goals this sea­son — a 35 per­cent clip.

Smith later ex­tended the lead late when he gath­ered a loose puck from a turnover he cre­ated, skated around Ducks de­fense­man Ham­pus Lind­holm, and lifted a back­hand per­fectly to make it 3-1.

Marches­sault scored his first goal on a penalty shot. Af­ter Sil­fver­berg cut the lead to two, Marches­sault net­ted his sec­ond goal with Gib­son pulled.

NOTES: These teams won’t meet again un­til Feb. 23, when they’ll con­clude the sea­son se­ries at Honda Cen­ter . ... The Ducks came into the game whis­tled for the sec­ond-most penalty min­utes, at 12.2 per game, but were only rung up three times . ... Ana­heim closes the decade with the fourth-best record in the Western Con­fer­ence and the eighth-best mark in the NHL, at 426-266-94 since Jan. 1, 2010 . ... Nate Sch­midt earned his 100th as­sist . ... Fleury im­proved to 15-4-0 against Ana­heim. ... Ac­tor Christo­pher Lloyd, bet­ter known as Em­mett “Doc” Brown from the “Back to the Fu­ture” movies, cranked the siren be­tween the sec­ond and third pe­ri­ods.

UP NEXT

Ducks: Visit Ari­zona on Thurs­day

Golden Knights: Host Philadel­phia on Thurs­day.

Associated Press

TAK­ING CON­TROL — Ve­gas Golden Knights left wing To­mas Nosek (92) skates around Ana­heim Ducks left wing Ni­co­las Des­lau­ri­ers (20) dur­ing the sec­ond pe­riod on Tues­day in Las Ve­gas. The Golden Knights won 5-2.

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