By Jacob Messing
The past few months have been full of firsts for the Vegas Golden Knights, the NHL’s 31st franchise.
In March they signed Brandon Wheat Kings center Reid Duke, in June they sifted through opposing rosters during the expansion draft and selected one player from each team, and later in the summer they unveiled their home jerseys.
Not a bad few months of work.
But their most impressive feat yet came on Sunday, when they routed the Vancouver Canucks 9-4 in the franchise’s inaugural preseason game in a visit to Rogers Arenas in Canada.
As electric as the game was, Vegas coach Gerard Gallant attempted to temper expectations, joking with the media that he “hopes fans don’t expect [nine goals] every night.”
That may be hard to do with performances like Tyler Wong’s display. The 21-year-old Canadian posted a hat trick, although he seemed to follow his coach’s tone after the game.
"The puck was finding me in good spots," Wong told reporters. "I was able to bury them."
The Knights came out strong and killed 1:44 of five-on-three early in the first period before scoring on a power play of their own. On a feed from sixth overall pick Cody Glass, Wong buried a backhander nearly five minutes in. The undrafted Wong signed with Vegas after a 43-goal, 89-point season in 79 games with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes.
The Canucks tied it up a few minutes later with Brock Boeser’s fourth goal in two games before Tomas Hyka reestablished the lead. Vancouver defenseman Jordan Subban made it 2-2.
Former Red Wings prospect Tomas Nosek chipped in a goal and added an assist on Wong’s second of the game to close the period 4-2. Defenseman Brad Hunt tallied three assists in the first period as well.
Alex Tuch scored the lone second period goal, giving the Knights a 5-2 lead entering the final 20 minutes, where another six-goal period awaited.
Canucks prospect Philip Holm cut his team’s deficit down to two before Vegas scored another three goals in a span of four minutes. Wong recorded the franchise’s first hat trick before Hyka added his second of the night. Nick Suzuki, the 13th overall pick in June added an unassisted goal.
Boeser scored his second of the night, this time on the man advantage, before Paul Thompson closed the scoring in favor of Vegas, 9-4.
It was a game played largely with non-NHL rosters, but a nine-goal game certainly had to put a smile on the faces behind the newest team. Even though coach Gallant is preaching patience and lowered expectations, this is an auspicious beginning for the Golden Knights.
Perhaps a more NHL-based roster will be on the ice for Vegas when the Knights visit the Colorado Avalanche at 6:00 PM on Tuesday night.
Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @JMessing23.