DENVER (AP) — Reilly Smith scored a short-handed goal, Robin Lehner stopped 26 shots and the injury-plagued Vegas Golden Knights snapped a four-game slide with a 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.
It was Smith’s seventh short-handed goal for Vegas.
Chandler Stephenson also scored and Keegan Kolesar added an empty-netter with 29.9 seconds left to seal the win in the matchup between two of the top teams in the West who haven't exactly been playing at their best.
Vegas has a valid reason — injuries to big names.
The Avalanche just haven’t been able to hit their stride so far this season. They dropped to 1-2 at Ball Arena after finishing 22-4-2 in friendly confines a season ago, which was tied for the most wins.
Cale Makar had the only goal for Colorado. Darcy Kuemper settled in after a rough start to make 26 saves.
The game was stopped for several minutes late in the second period as the officials took a look at a hit delivered by Avs defenseman Jack Johnson on Kolesar near the benches. Johnson appeared to catch Kolesar up high and knocked him to the ice. Kolesar’s teammate Nicolas Roy immediately tossed his gloves and went after Johnson.
Roy drew a five-minute major for fighting, two more for instigating and a game misconduct. Johnson was hit with a five-minute major for interference, another five-minute major for fighting and a game misconduct.
Right after things were sorted out, Makar scored to make it 2-1.
Colorado nearly tied it with 8:32 remaining on a wrap-around try by captain Gabriel Landeskog. But the stick of diving defenseman Nicolas Hague helped keep the puck out of the net until Lehner could smother it.
The Avs pulled Kuemper with around 1:50 remaining, but couldn't capitalize.
Lehner made saves every way possible, including one by sitting down on the puck just in front of the goal after a shot by Sampo Ranta in the second period. Lehner is now 18-8-2 with Vegas in the regular season since being acquired from Chicago on Feb. 24, 2020.
This was an anticipated early season clash after Colorado and Vegas met in the second round of the playoffs last season. The Golden Knights won the series 4-2.
Stephenson scored two minutes into the game and before fans even had a chance to settle into their seats.
Later in the period, Smith stole the puck with the Avalanche on the power play and skated in on Kuemper, who poked it away with his stick and right to William Karlsson. Although Karlsson was originally credited for the goal, it was changed to Smith.
GIRARD OUT, TOEWS CLOSE
The Avalanche were without defenseman Samuel Girard after he took a hit against Tampa Bay on Saturday. Coach Jared Bednar said Girard remains day to day.
Devon Toews (shoulder) may be nearing a return. He was recently cleared for controlled contact in practice.
The banged-up Golden Knights are missing quite a few players, including Alec Martinez, Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, Alex Tuch and Zach Whitecloud.
Golden Knights: At Dallas on Wednesday.
Avalanche: At St. Louis on Thursday.
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Pat Graham, The Associated Press