After matching their best start to a season with a 3-2 shootout victory over Dallas, the Vegas Golden Knights will set their sights on an NHL record when they face the host Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night to begin a two-game Central Division road trip.
The Golden Knights (4-0-0), who also started 4-0-0 in the 2020-21 season, can tie the longest season-opening winning streak by a reigning Stanley Cup champion with a win over the Jets, who have lost two of their first three games.
Both the Wayne Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers in 1985-86 and the 1920-21 Ottawa Senators hold the mark for the best start to a season by a defending champion with five consecutive wins.
The Golden Knights cruised to identical 4-1 victories in each of their first three games against Seattle, San Jose and Anaheim but had to rally to defeat the Stars on Tuesday night in a rematch of the 2023 Western Conference finals.
Vegas’ William Karlsson redirected a point shot by rookie defenseman Kaedan Korczak with 2:59 remaining in the third period to tie things at 2-2. Jonathan Marchessault then scored the game-winner in the third round of the shootout.
Marchessault’s winner came after Shea Theodore and Matt Duchene had traded scores in the second round.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever won a shootout without making a save,” Vegas goalie Adin Hill joked.
Karlsson and Korczak each had a goal and an assist for Vegas, which trailed for the first time all season when Craig Smith gave Dallas a 1-0 lead in the second period. The Golden Knights drew even later in the period on Korczak’s first NHL goal.
The physical contest featured a total of 57 hits and a heavyweight fight between Jamie Benn and 6-foot-6 defenseman Nicolas Hague, and another between Mason Marchment and Ben Hutton.
“There’s some animosity left over from last May,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Looks like we’ve built up some more.”
It remains to be seen if there’s any animosity left over with Winnipeg. The Golden Knights started their Stanley Cup run by defeating the Jets in five games in the first round of the playoffs. Winnipeg won the first game 5-1, but Vegas rebounded to win the next four.
The Jets enter Thursday coming off Tuesday’s 5-1 home loss to the Los Angeles Kings. It was a costly setback for Winnipeg, as forward Gabriel Vilardi left in the first period with a sprained MCL that is expected to sideline him for four to six weeks.
“It’s awful,” Jets forward Cole Perfetti said. “He’s a huge part of our team. The skill and hockey sense that he brings into our lineup is huge.
“Just praying for the best and hope it’s nothing serious and whatever it is he has a speedy recovery. We need him back in our lineup because he is such an elite player.”
Laurent Brossoit is expected to make his first start of the season for the Jets on Thursday. He was the starting goalie for the Golden Knights at the beginning of their Stanley Cup playoff run before being replaced by Hill after suffering a season-ending groin injury in Game 3 of the second round.