The Vegas Golden Knights are closing fast in the Western Conference playoff race.
Vegas pulled within one point of the third-place Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division and two points off of a wild-card berth Thursday by drubbing the division-leading Calgary Flames 6-1 … in Calgary, no less.
And while they are still on the verge of missing the NHL playoffs for the first time in their five-year history, the Golden Knights (41-29-5, 87 points) are within reach of playoff position Saturday as they visit Edmonton to face the Oilers.
Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson each had a goal and two assists Thursday as Vegas improved to 7-1-1 in its past nine games. The Golden Knights have picked up five points on the slumping Kings in the past two weeks, have a game in hand and hold the tiebreak edge of having more regulation wins than Los Angeles.
In the wild-card race, Vegas is two points behind both Nashville and Dallas.
In the victory at Calgary, rookie goalie Logan Thompson was making his first career start in his hometown, and had 35 saves for the Golden Knights.
“It’s something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life,” Thompson said. “Really excited and couldn’t be happier. I had my brother and my sister here and a couple friends from growing up. Happy they could make it.”
Trailing 1-0, the Golden Knights scored six unanswered goals, including four in the second period.
“We’re obviously a more desperate team than they are as far as the standings go,” Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer said.
The Oilers (43-26-6, 92 points), who are second in the Pacific Division, blanked host Nashville 4-0 Thursday as Leon Draisaitl had a hat trick and Mike Smith made 30 saves for his first shutout of the season.
Darnell Nurse also scored and Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each had two assists as the Oilers improved to 6-1-1 in their past eight games.
“We knew that in order for us to walk away with two points, we needed everybody firing on all cylinders,” Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft said. “We came at that team in waves, we skated well and we asserted what we wanted to do on them.”
The Oilers rebounded from a 5-1 loss Tuesday at Minnesota.
“We wanted to bounce back and have a better effort than we did in (Minnesota)” Smith said. “I think (it was) as complete an effort as you can have against a really good hockey team in their building.
“It’s always tough to play in here. It’s always a good atmosphere and the guys responded really well. Had a good start to the game, got up in the first and then kind of just carried the momentum of that throughout the whole 60, so it was good to see.”
Draisaitl now has 54 goals on the season, four behind league-leading Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“Obviously, not our best in Minnesota, but good teams, they make sure they respond,” Draisaitl said. “We are a good team and I thought we responded really well. Full 60 minutes, every facet of the game was checked off really.”
Draisaitl continued to terrorize the Predators. In 20 career games against Nashville, he has 19 goals (his most against any club) and six assists, including two of his seven career hat tricks.
“I think sometimes you just have a team that it seems to work a little better against than others,” he said. “A couple of great plays tonight by some guys, and fortunately I took advantage of them.”
–Field Level Media