LAS VEGAS (AP) — Brandon Pirri has played in only six games for the Vegas Golden Knights, four this season.
And all he does is score.
Pirri got his fourth goal of the campaign midway through the third period Thursday night, sending Vegas to a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.
“I’m just trying to contribute every way I can. It’s a great opportunity for me, I really don’t want to waste it,” said Pirri, who has at least one point in every game he’s played for Vegas. “The team’s playing well. I thought we played three solid periods tonight. We played a complete 60 tonight and it showed.”
Pirri, recalled from the AHL’s Chicago Wolves earlier in the day, blistered a shot from the point past goaltender Philipp Grubauer with 9:49 left. In his six games with the Golden Knights, Pirri has seven goals and one assist.
Vegas, with the eighth-best penalty kill in the NHL, staved off back-to-back power plays for Colorado in the final six minutes. The Golden Knights have the fourth-best home penalty kill, stopping opponents on 48 of 55 opportunities (87.3 percent).
“I think it gives you a lot of energy when you have your guys go out there and kill a penalty,” Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “It kind of deflates you for a second ’cause you’ve got to go right back into it, but guys take that pride in knowing they’re going out there and got to stop the power play, otherwise you’re possibly heading into overtime.”
Overtime was the last thing the Golden Knights wanted after losing consecutive games in OT at home on Saturday and Sunday against Montreal and Los Angeles, respectively, by identical scores of 4-3.
“That was make or break right there. Last (two) games the other teams beat us at the end of the game and I didn’t want that to happen again,” said Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 31 saves to improve to 21-10-4. “I thought our guys did a great job in front of me, defending and taking space away from them. Our D-men have been great. I didn’t have too much action at some times, but at the end I knew I had to make a couple of saves to keep it there.”
Paul Stastny celebrated his 33rd birthday with a goal for the Golden Knights, who remained in third place in the Pacific Division with 46 points — one back of San Jose.
Grubauer (8-4-3) made 41 saves and J.T. Compher scored for the Avalanche, third in the Central Division with 44 points — two behind second-place Nashville.
Colorado, which ranks fourth in the NHL in goals (130) and sixth in goals per game (3.42), was held to one or none for the sixth time this season. The Avalanche lead the league in third-period goals (54) but were shut out late by Fleury, who made 13 saves in the final frame.
“I think we’ve gone through some stretches where we’ve had some trouble with our breakouts here, which we’ve never really had before,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “I think, in our zone, we’re too selective on our shots. I’d like to see us move it, shoot it a little more. I thought they did a really nice job early. It doesn’t have to be a fancy, highlight-reel play. It’s just got to get to the net and make sure we have numbers.”
Compher found the net when he camped out to the right of Fleury and tipped in Mikko Rantanen’s shot to give the Avalanche an early 1-0 lead. Rantanen has 60 points (16 goals, 44 assists), including at least one in 19 of his last 22 games.
Vegas tied it later in the first period when Stastny — drafted 44th overall by Colorado in 2005 — took the puck to the net and was denied by Grubauer before punching in his own rebound with a backhand.
Stastny, who played his first eight NHL seasons with the Avs and ranks ninth on their career scoring list with 458 points, has three goals for the Golden Knights — all in the last six games.
Vegas improved to 3-0-1 against the Avalanche since joining the league last season and has outscored them by a combined 14-4.
NOTES: Vegas forward Max Pacioretty went back on injured reserve. … Golden Knights forward Ryan Carpenter played in his 100th career game. … Vegas improved to 8-0 with 40 or more shots on goal. … Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon is the only NHL player to rank among the league’s top 10 in points (third with 57), goals (ninth with 22) and assists (fifth with 35). He has a point in 20 of his last 25 games. … Fleury earned his 50th win with the Golden Knights.
Avalanche: Open a four-game homestand Saturday vs. Chicago.
Golden Knights: At the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
By W.G. RAMIREZ, Associated Press
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