Blue Jack­ets put on flashy show in Ve­gas

The Columbus Dispatch - - Sports - By Brian Hedger The Colum­bus Dis­patch [email protected]­patch.com @Bri­an­hedger

LAS VE­GAS — They’d won the first two games of a three-game trip, but the Blue Jack­ets wanted to se­cure at least one gem to take home Sun­day.

They’d al­ready ended a five-game los­ing streak and put to­gether con­sec­u­tive wins in Colorado and Ari­zona, but what they re­ally wanted was a sig­na­ture per­for­mance — one they could look back on the rest of the sea­son.

Their op­por­tu­nity to bag that was Sat­ur­day night at T-mo­bile Arena, the loud, flashy home of the Ve­gas Golden Knights, and the Blue Jack­ets got ex­actly what they wanted with an im­pres­sive 4-3 vic­tory to pol­ish off a 3-0-0 trip.

“It’s huge,” said Cam Atkin­son, whose two goals late in the third pe­riod keyed the come­from-be­hind ef­fort. “The first two games, we found a way to get those points, which is huge. We needed those points, ob­vi­ously. We knew this game was go­ing to be the hard­est out of the bunch, es­pe­cially in this en­vi­ron­ment.”

They weren’t wrong, for two main rea­sons.

One, the Golden Knights are a strong team again, af­ter win­ning the Western Con­fer­ence and play­ing in the 2018 Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal in their first year of ex­is­tence. Two, there is no such thing as a run-of-themill, reg­u­lar-sea­son game in Las Ve­gas.

Ev­ery game the Golden Knights play be­comes a Ve­gas show, with en­ter­tain­ment of some sort hap­pen­ing all around the arena — in­side and out — from start to fin­ish. It’s loud. The bass thumps so hard your tem­ples pul­sate, and the Golden Knights seem­ingly thought of ev­ery tech­no­log­i­cal bell and whis­tle on the mar­ket. Cam Atkin­son cel­e­brates the se­cond of his two goals dur­ing the third pe­riod in the Blue Jack­ets’ 4-3 vic­tory against the Golden Knights in Las Ve­gas on Sat­ur­day night.

It cre­ates a lot of en­ergy that fans and play­ers feed off. And it doesn’t take long to re­al­ize how big of a home-ice ad­van­tage it can be.

“The whole bench is vi­brat­ing,” said Atkin­son, who tied it 3-3 with 5:12 left in the third. “It’s a pretty spe­cial place to play. I like tak­ing that and us­ing that as mo­ti­va­tion to shove it in their faces, but when

they get go­ing it’s hard to main­tain just be­cause the crowd gets in­volved. If you don’t weather the storm, you’re go­ing to be on the wrong side of it.”

There were a cou­ple of storms to weather.

The Golden Knights scored two goals by de­fense­men in the first pe­riod, over­com­ing an early goal scored by the Jack­ets’ Josh An­der­son to take a 2-1 lead. It could’ve been worse had Jack­ets goalie Sergei Bo­brovsky (21 saves) not made two great stops in the wan­ing min­utes of the pe­riod.

The se­cond pe­riod, though, is where the Jack­ets shined — along with the fi­nal five-plus min­utes of the third. They seized con­trol by seiz­ing the puck, out­shoot­ing Ve­gas and find­ing an­other way to win a game, their third in a row.

Atkin­son’s se­cond goal of the game, his 31st of the sea­son, was the dif­fer­ence. Now comes the hard part.

The sched­ule gets even tougher this week, start­ing with home games Tues­day against the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals and Thurs­day against the New York Is­lan­ders — who lead the Metropoli­tan Di­vi­sion. The third-place Jack­ets are seven points back.

“I think it was a good time for us to get back on the road, but at the same time ... we’ve got to fig­ure things out at home now,” An­der­son said. “(We need) to re­ally fo­cus and try to play like this in front of our crowd, like we know we can do.”

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