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The Vegas Golden Knights have already made some NHL history. They’re far from finished with what they want to accomplish this season.
David Perron scored 3:57 into overtime to lead Vegas past the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 on Thursday night for the Golden Knights’ 34th victory, the most by an NHL expansion team in its debut season. They surpassed the mark set by both Florida and Anaheim in the 1993-94 season.
“It doesn’t mean a whole lot right now, to be honest with you,” said Gerard Gallant, who has coached his team to a Western Conference-leading 34-12-4 record, one point back of league-best Tampa Bay.
The Jets had the puck rolling in the crease three times in the extra period, but it couldn’t get it into the net. Perron then fired a high shot past Connor Hellebuyck to win it.
“We’re just trying to battle and get two points again every night and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Gallant said. “But you know, at the end of the season we’ll look at it and be happy, I’m sure.”
Winnipeg’s Kyle Connor had tied it with a high shot to Marc-Andre Fleury’s glove side with 2:36 left in the third period. Joel Armia also had a goal and one assist for Winnipeg.
Hellebuyck made 28 saves for the Jets (30-13-9), who were trying to set a franchise record with their eighth straight home win.
Fleury stopped 24 shots for Vegas (34-12-4). It was his 389th win, putting him into a tie for 13th among NHL goaltenders.
“That’s (Fleury) for you right there. He loves those kinds of moments,” Perron said of the overtime scrambles. “I don’t know how the puck stayed out, but he found a way to keep it out.”
Reilly Smith had a short-handed goal and Erik Haula scored a controversial goal on the power play for Vegas.
Haula’s go-ahead goal came with 1:30 left in the second period. Golden Knights forward James Neal was in front of Winnipeg’s net and broke his stick with a swing to Hellebuyck’s mask. The puck was under the netminder and Haula reached in his stick from the other side of the crease and knocked it in.
The Bell MTS Place crowd started screaming and Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice challenged for goaltender interference, but a review upheld the goal. The NHL Situation Room released an explanation stating no infraction had occurred.
“What (the official) said is the puck wasn’t covered, it was laying in the crease, so the guy was allowed to take a two-hand smack to my face,” Hellebuyck said. “I don’t understand it. I think it’s a terrible call. You would think the video replay is there for that reason.”
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It had Jets captain Blake Wheeler frustrated, too.
“The explanation was that the puck was behind the goalie, which gives their player the right to break his stick over (Hellebuyck’s) head,” Wheeler said. “There’s been an outcry with the league to get this right. We were told before the game that it was going to be a little bit cleaner, they were going to be looking for goalie interference. It’s the first time I’ve seen a guy break a stick over a goalie’s head.”
Maurice also questioned the explanation.
“I don’t know how there would be an event that would be more egregious with goaltender interference, just beyond the spirit of the rule,” Maurice said. “The idea that a guy could clean a goalie out would be goalie interference, but a two-hand to the head wouldn’t. What are we going to do with our goalies now? The puck’s loose in the crease, so swing away?”
Winnipeg led 1-0 after the first period, thanks to a gaffe by Fleury. The veteran goalie went behind the net to get the puck, but the Jets’ Matt Hendricks stole it and passed it out to Armia, who was in front of the empty net to score his 10th of the season.
Winnipeg got its second power play of the game midway through the second, but the visitors’ pressuring penalty kill led to Smith’s tying goal. Smith stole the puck from Jets captain Blake Wheeler inside Winnipeg’s blue line and beat Hellebuyck with a high shot on the breakaway at 12:10.
Haula’s goal came during the visitors’ first power play of the game. The goal extended Haula’s point streak to seven games, with four goals and five assists.
Connor scored his 17th goal with 2:36 on a pass from the boards by Armia.
NOTES: Perron also had an assist for Vegas, giving him a seven-game point streak with four goals and six helpers. … Vegas outshot the Jets 27-25 going into overtime.
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Golden Knights: play their third game of a six-game road trip Friday in Minnesota
Jets: continue their 10-game homestand with the third game Saturday against Colorado.