What happens in Vegas, continues to happen in Vegas.
The NHL’s Golden Knights are the toast of the town.
Erik Haula’s goal in double overtime gave Vegas a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night for a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.
“Honestly, I think that’s my first overtime goal and I’m happy it came at this time; that’s one of the best feelings in sports,” Haula said. “Going into overtime we just stressed it in the locker room to just keep going after ’em, to keep getting pucks behind ’em, keep playing north, keep playing fast and I think we executed our game plan.”
With less than five minutes on the clock in the second overtime, James Neal skated into the zone, looked past Alex Tuch and instead found a streaking Haula, who skated in on his own to beat goalie Jonathan Quick and send a towel-waving crowd of 18,588 into a frenzy.
“Obviously, he had the composure to hold the puck. I knew he was going to make that play. Maybe that helps we’ve been playing all year,” Haula said of Neal. “I had good speed going to the net. … I was able to slide a five-hole, he reacted. I was coming in with a lot of speed, I got lucky and we got the win.”
Game 3 in the best-of-seven Western Conference series is Sunday night in Los Angeles.
Tuch scored for expansion Vegas in regulation, and Paul LaDue had the Kings’ goal.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves for the Golden Knights. Quick stopped 54 shots for the Kings.
“Such a relief at the end,” said Fleury, who has allowed just one goal in a little more than 155 minutes over the first two games. “It was long, it was hard. The guys did an awesome job again tonight. It was a good feeling to win at home in front of our fans.”
The Golden Knights outshot Los Angeles in regulation, 35-20.
Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said Friday was a good example of why his scheme of playing four lines consistently all season is important, as his team continued to play with more pep while the Kings appeared fatigued as the second overtime wore on.
“Haula’s a great skater. … Obviously that last goal, Haula’s speed created a lot of that goal,” said Gallant, who got the victory exactly one year after being hired as coach of the Golden Knights. “As coaches, all year long, we played four lines and that’s what we do, so hopefully that paid off a little bit tonight. We played four lines most of the overtime, because when you play that much hockey, guys start to cramp up. It was tough on them. It was a great game, great battle and unbelievable for our fans tonight.”
The Kings, meanwhile, played without suspended defenseman Drew Doughty, a Norris Trophy contender who led the NHL in total minutes this season. The league’s Department of Player Safety handed down a one-game suspension after Doughty’s illegal hit to the head on Vegas forward William Carrier midway through the third period of the Golden Knights’ 1-0 series-opening victory Wednesday night.
Kings defenseman Oscar Fantenberg led the team with 53 shifts, while fellow defenseman Alec Martinez led the club with 44 minutes, 43 seconds on ice.
In contrast, nobody on Vegas’ roster played more than 38 minutes, with defenseman Nate Schmidt leading the Golden Knights at 37:19.
Game 1 featured 127 hits, including 68 by the Kings, and the rugged play continued in Game 2, with the same physical theme. Los Angeles outhit the Golden Knights 80-56 after the two combined for 113 in regulation.
“(Quick) gave us a chance to win like he always does,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “A lot of guys played hard tonight, not just Jonny. We had some guys play real hard (to) give us a chance to win. Now we’ve got to go home to take care of business at home.”
Vegas got on the board first after Jonathan Marchessault’s shot went wide and caromed off the end boards. Tuch was in front of the net to clean it up for his first career playoff goal, on a power play, giving the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead late in the first period.
The Kings got their first goal of the series on a power play, when LaDue fired a wrist shot from the point to beat Fleury with 4:05 left in the second.
Both teams had their chances in the first overtime, but Fleury and Quick were magnificent between the pipes.
Through two games the teams have played 155 minutes, 16 seconds, and Fleury and Quick have allowed just four goals combined.
NOTES: Rock star Gwen Stefani, a Southern California native raised in Anaheim, was shown on the T-Mobile video board delivering a “Go Knights Go!” chant during the first period. … Fellow rock star Vince Neil got the crowd roaring to start the third period by winding up the air raid siren.
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