Nevada’s first major sports franchise, the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, played their first home game Tuesday night for a sell-out crowd at T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, winning 5-2 over the Arizona Coyotes.
The Golden Knights’ home opener came 10 days after the worst mass-shooting in U.S. history on October 1. During the pregame ceremony, the Golden Knights honored the victims by projecting the names of all 58 victims of the shooting, as well as having 58 seconds of silence—one for each victim. Fans were asked to join in and sing the Star Spangled Banner. The team also honored several first responders by having them accompanied to center ice by Golden Knights players, and had survivors participate in a ceremonial puck drop. Through its hockey team, Vegas showed that sports is a tremendous vehicle to use in times of sadness and tragedy.
The Las Vegas-faithful turned out to be more than ready, waving white towels with “#VegasStrong” while the public address announcer started the team’s rallying cry of “Go Knights Go! Go Knights Go!” The noise level quickly went to a deafening level, producing an atmosphere befitting a Western Conference Final.
Finally, the puck dropped and Vegas did not disappoint its legion of fans inside T-Mobile Arena. The Golden Knights struck first on a wrist shot by forward Tomas Nosek assisted by Luca Sbisa and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Nosek’s goal put the Golden Knights ahead 1-0 merely 2:31 into the game. It didn’t end there however, as Deryk Engelland added another goal for the Golden Knights 1:47 later, assisted by Brandon Leipsic. Vegas’ onslaught of goals continued when James Neal added two goals in the middle of the first period, one of which came on a powerplay when Arizona’s Mario Kempe went to the box for goaltender interference.
Arizona answered Vegas’s four-goal flurry when Tobias Rieder scored on a goal originally given to Niklas Hjalmarsson. Vegas would get it back in the second period when Oscar Lindberg found the back of the of the net on an assist from Brandon Leipsic.
Kevin Connauton added a goal in the third period on an assist from Derek Stepan and Clayton Keller, but it wasn’t enough. Vegas took their home-opener and became the first NHL expansion franchise to go 3-0-0 in their first three games.
The Golden Knights have now beaten the Dallas Stars on the road and the Arizona Coyotes twice. The Golden Knights biggest test so far, the Detroit Red Wings come to T-Mobile Arena on Friday in what will be a measuring-stick game for the NHL’s newest franchise.