Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar waits for a faceoff in the first period against the St. Louis Blues on November 19 at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo
The Vegas Golden Knights appear to be busting out of their sophomore slump.
The Golden Knights (23-15-4) have surged to the top of the Pacific Division with 50 points, boosted by a three-game winning streak that includes a 4-1 win on the road against the Los Angeles Kings last Saturday.
Los Angeles, which beat the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in overtime on the road Monday night, is in last place in the division with a 16-21-3 record. The Kings, however, hold a 2-1 record over the Golden Knights in their recent string of games against each other. They also have won five of their last six games.
The Golden Knights will aim to reverse that trend when the two teams meet in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday.
The Kings beat the Golden Knights 5-1 in Los Angeles on Dec. 8 and 4-3 in overtime in Las Vegas on Dec. 23 before Vegas turned the tide with the win last weekend at Los Angeles.
In that game, Malcolm Subban played in place of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and got his first win of the season, ending the Kings' season-long four-game winning streak in the process. Subban, who was 0-5-0 heading into that matchup, had 30 saves.
"They were on a heater lately, so we wanted to show we could beat them," Subban said. "Obviously last year we did pretty well against them, including the playoffs. Being down 0-2 [this season], we felt like we needed to finally get a win against them, and we're glad to get it sooner than later."
Before facing the Avalanche on Monday, Kings captain Anze Kopitar was concerned about his team's confidence level, hoping the loss to the Golden Knights did not knock them off track from their recent winning mentality.
"I don't think you can just shrug [the loss] off," Kopitar said. "We're certainly going to look at some stuff, what we did wrong, what we did good. The big thing is now we can't let this one turn into two and three and four."
The Golden Knights has won three straight games thanks to their defense. They have allowed only one goal in each of their three last games.
It marks the second time in their two seasons of existence that they have allowed one of fewer goals in three straight games. Last year's team, which reached the Stanley Cup Finals, allowed two goals over a three-game span from Oct. 13-20.
"I think that's what our team's done the last three or four games, played real good solid defense and that's leading to good offense," Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said.
In the recent games against the Avalanche, Kings and Arizona Coyotes, Subban and Fleury have stopped 90 of 93 shots (96.8 save percentage) and the team has allowed only two power-play goals in 12 opportunities (83.3 percent success rate).
Another big part of their current surge is the play of veteran center Paul Stastny, who signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract with Vegas this offseason.
"I've done that my whole life. I'm an old-school, 200-foot player," Stastny told the Review Journal. "There's not too many in this league. Some guys say they are but they aren't. There's a few on this team. There's just a mindset. I think growing up, certain guys have that all the time."