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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Jonathan Marchessault scored twice in the first period, the first one ending a 13-game goal drought and the second allowed to stand after a replay challenge.
That decision by the Toronto replay office proved crucial as the Vegas Golden Knights remained hot with a 5-4 victory Saturday over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
They extended their winning streak to five games to remain in first place in the competitive Pacific Division. It’s quite a response for the Knights after they entered the All-Star break with a 1-5-2 stretch.
“I did feel it was a playoff vibe,” Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I was comfortable with my lines in November and then bunch of guys got hurt, damn it, and so that kind screwed that up. Now we’re back to pretty good health minus (Mark Stone). I like the way they’re operating.”
This was Tampa Bay’s first regulation loss of a four-game trip. The Lightning, who head home Tuesday night to host Anaheim, were 3-0-1 in their previous four games overall.
The Knights got to Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy four times in the first, the first time the two-time Stanley Cup champion has allowed that many goals in an opening period, according to Sportsnet Stats.
Shea Theodore had three points in opening period alone. He has a history of producing against the Lightning, twice putting up four-point games against them and scoring the winning goal with 2.3 seconds in a 2017 meeting.
Reilly Smith had two assists for Vegas, and four Lightning players each had two points — Victor Hedman, Vladislav Namestnikov, Corey Perry and Mikhail Sergachev.
Both teams came out firing, scoring three goals within a 47-second stretch of the first period. Namestnikov and Steven Stamkos scored for the Lightning and Brett Howden for the Knights. Stamkos’ goal, a top-shelf one-timer from the left circle, was on a power play.
Vegas scored three more times in the period, with Marchessault scoring twice and Theodore once. Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper immediately challenged the 5-foot-9 Marchessault’s second goal for a high stick, but after the video replay, the goal was upheld.
“Come on,” Cooper said when asked about the goal after the game. “I think Marchessault could stand right here and say he had a high stick on that goal. The rule’s confusing to me now. I thought that was plain as day, but they saw it differently.”
The question was whether Marchessault had a high stick when he swatted the puck to the ice not when he actually shot. In that case, it was a matter if the stick was above his shoulders.
“I thought my stick was around my shoulders and I hit the bottom part of it,” Marchessault said. “I just got a little taller than I was in Tampa (2014-16). They didn’t know that.”
The Lightning got to within a goal in the second period on Perry’s goal. That ended the Knights’ five-game streak of allowing two or fewer goals.
Vegas added the clincher with 1:09 left on Nicolas Roy’ empty-netter from 142 feet. That became especially critical when former Knight Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored with 10 seconds remaining.