LAS VEGAS — Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 41 saves to help the Buffalo Sabers to a 3-2 victory against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on Monday.
“I think the defense played well, even though there was a lot of shots,” Luukkonen said. “We were boxing out and we were taking the sticks away in front of the net. So that always makes my job easier.”
Jeff Skinner scored to extend his point streak to eight games for the Sabers (16-14-2), who have won four in a row. Tage Thompson scored his fifth goal in four games, and Lawrence Pilat had a goal and an assist.
“[Luukkonen] was great for us tonight,” Buffalo coach Don Granato said. “We have to keep in perspective that three weeks ago, we were ready to say, ‘He can’t do it.’ Love our team; that’s why you stand by your guys and support them through the challenges. I would say he was a key part. The rest of the guys were outstanding. You come to this building, you guys see the atmosphere. They’re a hungry team over there, they’re a very capable team. You’ve got to persevere and find a way. It’s not going to be pretty. You’re going to have to face a lot of momentum swings against you with talented players they have. Credit to all our guys for staying focused and dialed in all the way through.”
Chandler Stephenson and Reilly Smith scored, and Adin Hill made 15 saves for the Golden Knights (11-22-1), who have lost three consecutive home games.
“We didn’t finish well enough tonight,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We had, off the top of my head, four breakaways, a penalty shot. We scored on one eventually, which got us some juice. Early on, we missed some open nets on the power play. That’s the hope, if you keep generating at some point, you’ll finish those plays. We did some of those in the third.”
The Sabers scored three goals in the second period. Skinner gave the Sabers a 1-0 lead at 1:54, roofing a cross-ice pass from Alex Tuch.
Thompson made it 2-0 with a shot from the high slot at 7:16. He slammed on the brakes to let Golden Knights defenseman Nicolas Hague slide by, then shot past Hill for his 26th goal, two fewer than NHL leader Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers (28).
“I get a lot of space out there with my linemates ‘Tuchy’ and ‘Skinny;’ They’re both really good,” Thompson said. “All three of us do a really good job getting in on the forecheck. Tuchy especially, he’s just so fast. It creates a lot of time and space. That’s the result of that goal right there, you saw, their forwards were leaving the zones. [Casey Fitzgerald] makes a great play stepping in there and keeping it in. So, great play by him and I was able to outwait the [defense] and find the back of the net.”
Pilut extended the lead to 3-0 at 13:29, scoring from above the left circle after a face-off win.
Stephenson scored at 3:54 of the third period for Vegas to make it 3-1, scoring on the rush after taking a stretch pass from Michael Amadiobut Luukkonen stopped Jonathan Marchessault on a penalty shot at 13:03.
“It’s kind of the same as every time you take a penalty shot, is that you don’t want to make the first move,” Luukkonen said. “You kind of have to wait the player out, so that worked pretty well this time.”
Smith made it 3-2 with a goal from the right circle at 17:39 with Hill off for the extra attacker. It was Smith’s third consecutive game with a goal.
Vegas outshot Buffalo 23-5 in the third.
“I thought we generated enough tonight to win,” Cassidy said. “I think the analytics, chance reports and all that will back that up.”
NOTES: The Sabers are 6-2-1 in December. … Tuch, who played for Vegas from 2017-2021, has seven points in his past four games (two goals, seven assists). … Stephenson has two goals, six assists in a five-game point streak. … The 18 shots were the fewest allowed by the Golden Knights this season.