LAS VEGAS (AP) — Spanning the roster to decide which player should be next in rotation during a shootout, Vegas Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer deferred to assistant Ryan Craig, who suggested Evgenii Dadonov.
“Some of the analytics had other guys ahead of him,” DeBoer said. “His name came up and Ryan said he scored two games in a row. He has historically been a streaky scorer, so we put him out there.”
And he delivered.
Dadonov’s winner followed Nic Roy’s goal in the shootout and the Golden Knights survived a scare to beat the Anaheim Ducks 5-4.
It was Vegas’ third straight win after opening the season 1-4-0, including an overtime win at Dallas on Wednesday, when Dadonov also buried the game-winning goal.
“I just went in there, try to keep eye on the goalie, what he try to do, and find the hole to shoot,” said the 32-year-old Dadonov, who celebrated his first shootout score.
Reilly Smith, Nic Hague, Chandler Stephenson and William Carrier scored in regulation for the Golden Knights, who were playing their sixth game in 10 nights.
Vegas has won 18 of its 21 all-time meetings against Anaheim. The 18 victories are the most the Golden Knights have against any opponent. Vegas is also 9-2-0 and has outscored Anaheim 38-22 at T-Mobile Arena.
Robin Lehner made 34 saves for Vegas and improved to 3-4-0 this season.
“We needed the two points,” said Lehner, who entered the game with the worst shootout save percentage in NHL history. “It just keeps building confidence in (shootouts). I’ve been working quite a bit on it this season. I think I won the last one, so I just gotta try to keep the momentum going.”
The Ducks certainly didn’t make it easy on Lehner, though. Troy Terry, Isac Lundestrom, and Adam Henrique scored in the second half of the third period to erase a three-goal deficit and force overtime.
Trevor Zegras scored in the second period and in the shootout for the Ducks, while John Gibson stopped 38 shots.
“We were terribly disjointed early in the game, but I think it says a lot, especially with the travel today,” Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins said. “I think our fitness level is excellent right now, I think our will is excellent. Even though we were getting terribly outplayed in the first, (Gibson) put on a performance like I haven’t seen in a while. I think that’s probably the best hockey I’ve ever seen in that first period.”
Vegas outshot Anaheim 21-8 in the first period, and per Natural Stat Trick, had an overwhelming edge in high-danger chances, 10-3.
Smith got the Golden Knights on the board after William Karlsson deflected a pass from Alec Martinez perfectly to his linemate. Smith drove in and was denied by Gibson initially, but was able to punch in the rebound, giving Vegas a lead less than four minutes in.
Hague made it 2-0 early in the second period when he blasted a shot from just inside the blue line past Gibson. Zegras’ one-timer past Lehner late in the second cut Vegas’ lead in half.
Shortly after killing off a penalty that carried over from the second period, the Golden Knights extended their lead to two goals when Stephenson took a feed from Jonathan Marchessault and went forehand-backhand with a nice move to beat Gibson, making it 3-1. Capitalizing on a turnover, Stephenson skated into the zone with the puck and sent a pass toward the slot for Carrier, who fired a wrist shot past Gibson to give the Golden Knights a three-goal lead.
Then the Ducks came to life, erasing a three-goal deficit for a second straight night after losing to Buffalo 4-3 in overtime on Thursday.
Terry, Lundestrom, and Henrique scored unanswered goals in about a five-minute span to tie the game with 3:31 left in the third.
“The thing you’ve got to love about the group is they don’t quit, they will just not quit,” Eakins said. “That’s super encouraging. The other thing that’s encouraging is when you’re down in a game like that, come back and get a point, we didn’t lose the game. We lost the shootout. But to come in the room after where you think it’s going to be, ‘Hey, we got a point. That’s great.’”
NOTES: Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf assisted on Terry’s goal, tying him with Teemu Selanne (988) for Anaheim’s all-time points record. … Terry leads Anaheim in scoring with nine points (4 goals, 5 assists), and currently has a career-high seven-game point streak dating to Oct. 18. … Stephenson celebrated his 100th game as a Golden Knight with his third multi-point game of the season.
Anaheim: Opens a four-game homestand against Montreal on Sunday.
Vegas: Opens a four-game tour through Canada in Toronto on Tuesday.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports