Updated April 9, 2021 - 10:18 pm
Pete DeBoer gathered his troops at the end of Friday’s morning skate and gave the Golden Knights a quick pep talk.
After consecutive slow starts against St. Louis, the Knights coach wanted a better opening 10 minutes from his team against Arizona.
“How’d you hear that?” DeBoer asked the media on his videoconference call. “Was I mic’ed? Do I talk that loudly?”
Everyone in the building heard the message, including the players.
The Knights erupted for four goals in the opening 8:44 of the first period and picked up a 7-4 victory over Arizona at T-Mobile Arena on Friday night.
Smith finished with two goals, including a short-handed tally in the first period. Jonathan Marchessault, William Carrier and Keegan Kolesar also scored in the first to ignite the announced crowd of 3,950.
“The first four or five shifts we generated 10 to 15 shots and a couple goals, and I think that changed the game,” winger Reilly Smith said. “As the game went on I think we took our foot off the gas, but thankfully enough we had such a good start that we were able to pull it out because of what we were able to do the first couple shifts.”
Chandler Stephenson cashed in a breakaway for a 5-0 lead in the second period before the Coyotes closed the gap.
Max Pacioretty, playing in his 800th NHL game, scored into an empty net for his 299th career goal as as all four lines produced a goal at five-on-five and helped the Knights set their season high for goals in a game.
The win helped the Knights (26-11-2, 54 points) keep pace in the West Division with Colorado and move four points ahead of third-place Minnesota, which lost 9-1 to St. Louis.
“Traveling back two time zones from St. Louis and the schedule we’ve had recently, you never know what the first period’s going to look like and how the group, how their legs are going to be,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “I thought we were great early. That was the game, really.”
Goalie Robin Lehner improved to 5-0-1 since he returned from a concussion despite allowing three goals in a span of 4:33 over the second and third periods.
Arizona’s Nick Schmaltz converted on the power play late in the second period. Dryden Hunt and Clayton Keller added goals early in the third period to bring the Coyotes within 5-3.
Michael Bunting also scored in the third period for Arizona.
“We know we have a few things to clean up,” Lehner said. “We obviously don’t want to let in those goals in the third. But every time you can get a win now in the stretch before the playoffs and get away with a couple mistakes, it’s a learning experience.”
The Knights, who lost four of their previous five games, had a full lineup with the return of defenseman Alec Martinez and overwhelmed Arizona early in the first meeting between the clubs since Jan. 24.
After firing 51 shots on goal in a loss at St. Louis on Wednesday, the Knights peppered Coyotes goalie Adin Hill from the opening faceoff. Midway through the first, the Knights registered 18 shots on goal and finished with 22, two shy of their season high for a period.
Hill stopped 27 of 32 shots and was pulled after the second period in favor of backup Ivan Prosvetov.
“After the past few games our start was not good enough obviously and we emphasized that,” Marchessault said. “We’ve got to be able to close out games way easier that. We’re definitely going to have to be aware next game to play a full 60 minutes.”