Vegas Golden Knights look sharp in the Bubble as Coyotes brushed aside

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Darcy Kuemper #35 of the Arizona Coyotes is unable to stop a power play goal by Reilly Smith of the Vegas Golden Knights as Nick Cousins #21 of the Vegas Golden Knights celebrates.

Darcy Kuemper #35 of the Arizona Coyotes is unable to stop a power play goal by Reilly Smith of the Vegas Golden Knights as Nick Cousins #21 of the Vegas Golden Knights celebrates. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Layoff, what layoff? The Vegas Golden Knights are back and they are dangerous.

It took over four months but hockey finally returned this week and the Vegas Golden Knights looked anything but rusty in their first game back on Thursday night.

Going up against Pacific Division rivals the Arizona Coyotes in an exhibition game at Rogers Center in Edmonton, the Golden Knights played as if they’d never been away.

Reilly Smith lit the lamp twice, Alex Tuch looked solid with a goal and Nick Cousins added an empty-netter as the Knights rolled over the Coyotes by a score of 4-1.

Although there are kinks to be ironed out before the real action begins, as is the case for all 24 teams, the Knights controlled the tempo well from the first drop of the puck and rust or lack of sharpness didn’t appear to be a problem.

It was a chance for players to dial back in and hit a puck in competitive anger for the first time in months, while Head Coach Peter DeBoer could experiment with any new systems or line combinations thought up during the hiatus and in Training Camp.

And it all worked out nicely as the Golden Knights ticked a number of boxes in their first game since March. 9.

Let’s break down the win over the Coyotes period by period, shall we…

First Period

As was the case during the regular season, Peter DeBoer rolled out his fourth line to start the game against Arizona with Ryan Reaves, Tomas Nosek and William Carrier taking the ice for the opening faceoff.

As expected, both teams looked slightly rusty in the opening stages and the overall level of play was disjointed to say the least.

However, put William Karlsson and Reilly Smith on the penalty kill and good things are bound to happen as was proved at 8:42 in the first.

Smith forced a turnover in the neutral zone, setting up a two-on-one as a direct result, and the forward blasted a one-timer past Darcy Kuemper after being fed a gorgeous saucer pass from Karlsson.

Smith was the best player on the ice for Vegas and, after recording 27 goals and 54 assists in the regular season, potted his second goal of the night late in the first.

With Nick Cousins doing a nice job of screening Kuemper, Smith was able to pull the trigger on a bomb of a wrist shot to light the lamp again.

Second Period

Vegas had outshot the Coyotes 10-5 in the first period and they led in the same category during the middle frame too.

In other words, they were all over Arizona and were seeing plenty of time on the power play too, which is no bad thing as you ramp up for the Playoffs.

Darcy Kuemper was keeping Arizona alive as he helped to keep the Knights at bay on the PP, although Vegas were not quite as sharp at 5-on-5, generating just one high danger chance.

Third Period

Marc-Andre Fleury had looked more than sharp in his first outing in over four months, but he was finally beaten at 9:14 of the final frame after Taylor Hall eventually lodged the puck into the net following a sequence of saves from Fleury.

That was it for the Coyotes, however, as Fleury came up big when he needed to before Alex Tuch pulled off the unthinkable.

Still on the bench prior to the faceoff in the offensive zone before realizing where he actually needed to be, Tuch picked up the puck but was forced away from goal although that didn’t deter him, instead turning and blasting a shot from an impossible angle past Kuemper.

It was a high quality play from a player who had endured plenty of injury struggles throughout the regular season, and both Tuch and the Knights will hope that proves to be a turning point.

Vegas had controlled play for the majority of the game and it was mission complete at 19:47 when Nick Cousins scored an empty-netter from his own zone.

While not perfect, the Golden Knights had a collective Corsi of 55.44 percent through the first two periods and a number of key players looked sharp and ready to go.

There is work to be done at 5-on-5 but this game, and the three round-robin contests to a certain extent, are tuneup exercises and it was a job well done by the Vegas Golden Knights overall.

On a side note, defenseman Nate Schmidt left the game with 8:02 remaining in the third period although that was due to cramp according to Jesse Granger of The Athletic.

Let’s look at our Three Stars of the Game…

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