The Vegas Golden Knights return home Tuesday night to face the Buffalo Sabres after completing their longest road trip of the season Saturday, culminating with a much-needed win against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Vegas (2-4-0) suffered losses against Buffalo, Washington and Pittsburgh on the trip, but a stirring 1-0 win over the Flyers puts the Golden Knights in the right frame of mind for their rematch with the Sabres, who are 3-2-0 after opening their West coast swing Saturday night with a 3-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes.
The Sabres began the season with a 2-2 homestand, including a 4-2 win over Vegas on Oct. 8 behind two goals by captain Jack Eichel. Buffalo will play five games out west in 10 days. The Golden Knights just finished a five-game trip that spanned seven days.
"It wasn't our best road trip, but 2-3 is better than 1-4, so those are valuable points going back west," said Vegas forward Cody Eakin, who scored the lone goal Saturday late in the third period.
Veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury recorded 26 saves against the Flyers in his first shutout of the season.
The victory kept the Golden Knights from a fourth straight loss, which never occurred last year in the regular season of their magical inaugural run in the NHL.
"It's been a tough beginning to the season," Fleury told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "I think our play has been improving throughout the road trip. I don't know, nobody likes to lose, and we had to finish on a good note."
The difficult road trip is similar to what the Golden Knights experienced last season. The Knights had only three points out of six road games between October and November in 2017. This year's longest trip had four points in five games.
The Golden Knights rebounded from last year's early struggle on the road by winning six of their next seven games. How will they fare this time around? They have an opportunity to make up some points with the next five games at the T-Mobile Arena.
"Just forget about the losses and build off this win," forward Ryan Carpenter told the Review-Journal after the long road trip. "All season we try to just take it one day at a time and when you lose three in a row, it's never a good feeling, especially after having higher expectations this year. But just off confidence, go home, get some rest and be ready for the next game."
Vegas' defense allowed 14 goals in the first four games of the trip before blanking Philadelphia. The Knights had only eight goals in the five games. They remain without Alex Tuch (lower-body injury) and the suspended Nate Schmidt. Paul Stastny (lower-body) and Deryk Engelland (arm) were injured on the trip.
"We feel good leaving the road trip now," Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said after Saturday's game. "It was a tough trip. We're going back home for a bunch of games and it's going to be a long flight home but it's going to be a good flight. We're 2-4 and we're battling back."
Buffalo started its road trip in promising fashion with the win over Arizona, which included the first career goal of 18-year-old defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with less than three minutes into the game when he buried a loose puck in the crease.
Sabres coach Phil Housley said Dahlin's teammates were enthusiastic over the goal. Reporters noted that the celebrating Sabres could easily be heard outside the dressing room.
"They were really glad," Dahlin said on NHL.com. "That makes me glad, too. We have a good chemistry on the team. We're a good team."