William Karlsson recorded the first ever hat trick in Vegas Golden Knights history as they doubled up the Leafs 6-3 in the final game of 2017.
Karlsson and his line mates Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith were a major factor in Vegas’ win yesterday. The line combined for eight points and dictated play every time they were on the ice. One thing Vegas has the luxury of is having four lines of legit NHLers that Head Coach Gerard Gallant can roll through and execute with an effective game plan without seeing a decreased effort between all four lines. The whole Vegas team was effective on the fore check, forcing the Leafs subpar defenceman to create bad turnovers or take costly penalties. Lately that seems to be the only way to beat the Leafs, is forcing their defenceman and capitalize on power play opportunities.
The atmosphere right off that top was electric, and something that really stood out to me. I even questioned how the Leafs were going to remain focus in enemy territory. Vegas scored just over two minutes into the game and the momentum from there was on Vegas’ side. Three goals in the first period set the tone early, as the Leafs were playing catch up against one of the league’s best.
Aside from the slow start which significantly altered the Leafs game plan, I thought the Leafs handled the Golden Knights fairly well in the final two periods. Auston Matthews certainly got the message after the 3 goal first period as he was the Leafs best player in the final 40 minutes of the game. Matthews scored twice against Vegas reaching career point 100 in 112 career games. Once again Nazem Kadri sat out yesterday’s game as he deals with an upper body injury. It definitely is no coincidence that the Leafs have lost both games that Kadri has been out, as his defensive abilities and Mike Babcock doesn’t have the same luxury to put him out there to match up against the other team’s best line.
Performance of the Night:
If it was a historical performance for your club, then it certainly deserves our performance of the night. William Karlsson has etched his name in Vegas history becoming the first player to record a hat trick in franchise history. He would have never been able to do so if it wasn’t for his line mates as the way all three of them were playing, you just could anticipate a big afternoon. The man known as Wild Bill has been the biggest beneficiary of the move to Vegas. In a log jam in the Columbus organization, Karlsson was never trusted with big minutes. In his two years in Columbus Karlsson recorded 15 goals, in half a season with Vegas as arguably their number one centre, he has hit the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career.
I thought this game met expectations. I wish the game was still closer after the first to get more of an balanced attack throughout the game instead of one team playing catch up and the other locking it down. The atmosphere of T-Mobile Arena added to the whole feel of the game, as it has me convinced to make a trip down to Vegas to take in a game. Two of the best teams were on display yesterday and played an exciting game, which is why I give this game 4/5.