Vegas Golden Knights: Shea Theodore Beats Buzzer And Defeats NHL’s Top Team

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 19: Shea Theodore #27 of the Vegas Golden Knights celebrates with teammates after scoring on a power-play goal with 2.3 seconds left in the third period to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 at T-Mobile Arena on December 19, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 19: Shea Theodore #27 of the Vegas Golden Knights celebrates with teammates after scoring on a power-play goal with 2.3 seconds left in the third period to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 at T-Mobile Arena on December 19, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

The Vegas Golden Knights took down the NHL’s number one team in one of the best games of the year.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been a wagon all year long. They’re four lines deep, have great defensemen and own the number one goalie on the planet right now. But on Tuesday night, they finally met their match in the Vegas Golden Knights.

Tampa came to Las Vegas winning seven straight games while the Knights won seven out of their last eight. Both teams are red-hot, and it had all the makings of a great hockey game. And boy did it sure live up to the hype.

It was a classic matchup in goal between Andrei Vasilevskiy for Tampa Bay and Marc-Andre Fleury for Vegas. Aside from the injuries to Luca Sbisa and William Carrier, Vegas came into the game fully healthy and ready to go.  However, it didn’t start well at all for the Golden Knights.

The game started off with a high tempo on both sides and a loud, rambunctious crowd. They got quiet once Steven Stamkos ripped off his patented slap shot from the left faceoff dot on the power play for his 13th goal of the season. Brayden McNabb’s mindless delay of game penalty started a trend of unfortunate events.

With the Golden Knights back on the penalty kill in the final minute of the first period, Vladislav Namestnikov beat Fleury down low for his 14th of the campaign. There was nothing Fleury could do on either of the Lightning goals.

The Knights had their chances in the first, but they couldn’t finish. Shea Theodore hit the post on the power play, and Brendan Leipsic had an excellent opportunity with a backhand shot. But Tampa Bay took a 2-0 lead into the second period, although it didn’t last very long.

Nearly halfway through the second, Brayden Coburn took a delay of game penalty, and that’s when the tables turned. “Real Deal” James Neal beat Vasilevskiy to the far corner for his team-leading 17th goal of the season. But the Vegas power play wasn’t done yet, not by a long shot.

Late in the second period, David Perron fed Jonathan Marchessault with a tape to tape cross-ice pass and the Cap-Rouge, Quebec native made no mistake. Perron had an excellent game for the Golden Knights, and he was one of the catalysts on the Golden Knights offense. Marchessault’s 12th of the year tied the game at two, and that’s how it stood to head into the third and final frame.

The referee’s caught rookie Mikhail Sergachev for a high sticking Neal, and the Golden Knights made him pay immediately. The Knights won the faceoff, Perron and Theodore played catch and Theodore wristed the puck towards the net, and Erik Haula tipped it in for his 12th goal of the year.

Here’s a weird but fascinating stat: Ten of Haula’s 12 goals have come in the third period. He unquestionably does have a flair for the dramatics, but Tampa wasn’t going to lay down that easy.

A long range shot from Victor Hedman found its way into the net for his fourth goal of the year to once again tie the game at three. Colin Miller screened Fleury on the shot by Hedman and Fleury didn’t see till it was too late. Things really started to pick up when Deryk Engelland got called for a “throwing the stick” penalty.

Tampa is the number one power play in the league was very dangerous all night long. However, Vegas earned an enormous kill and weathered the storm. Then with less than 24 seconds later to go, Coburn received a holding the stick penalty.

Related Story: Vegas Golden Knights: Jonathan Marchessault And Reilly Smith Sink Former Team

The Lightning desperately tried to keep the puck in the corner to bleed the clock, but Haula wrestled the puck away from Brayden Point. He quickly fed Marchessault who’s usually a “shoot first type of player,” but on this night he served it up to the hot hand in Theodore.

Theodore ripped it from the point and beat Vasilevskiy with 2.3 seconds to go in the game. The future of the Vegas Golden Knights blue line showed why he’s ready for the big time. The 22-year old finished the night with one goal, three assists and all four points coming on the power play.

Fleury also was no slouch tonight. The Sorel, Quebec native came up with multiple colossal saves to keep Vegas in the game. He finished the game with 35 saves on 38 shots while improving his record to 5-1-1.

My number three star would have to be Erik Haula. He finished with one goal and one assist and was flying up and down the ice all night long. He kept the pressure on the Lightning defense for most of the night with his hands and deadly speed.

My second star of the night is David Perron, and he no doubt stole the show. His three helpers on the power play showed why he’s the best playmaking winger on the club. He would’ve been my number one star, but there’s only one player who outperformed him.

Who else earned the number one star besides Shea Theodore? He was confident from opening puck drop till the final horn. He made all the right plays in the defensive zone, and Head Coach Gerard Gallant awarded him with significant power play minutes, and he didn’t let it go to waste. To my credit, I called this game was the best game of Theodore’s career before the game-winner.

Next: Vegas Golden Knights Recall Tomas Hyka From Chicago Wolves.

All in all, this may be the NHL’s best game of the regular season, and the Golden Knights came out on the winning end. The Knights last game before the Christmas break isn’t until Saturday versus the Washington Capitals at T-Mobile Arena. Catch puck drop with Dave Goucher and Shane Hnidy on AT&T Sportsnet at 5 PM PT.