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Stickless Stephenson gets winner, Vegas beats Coyotes 4-2

A stickless Chandler Stephenson was credited with the game-winning goal, Robin Lehner made 30 saves and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-2 on Monday night.

Not too long after the first of Reilly Smith’s two goals tied it early in the third period, Vegas defenseman Zach Whitecloud gathered a loose puck from a faceoff in Arizona’s zone and fired a shot off Stephenson’s back to give Vegas its first lead of the game.

Max Pacioretty also scored for the Golden Knights, his third goal in three games.

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez (23) vies for the puck with Arizona Coyotes right wing Christian Fischer (36) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP PhotoJohn Locher)

Vegas has won two straight after trailing to start the third period. The Golden Knights own a 7-0 goal-differential in the final period and improved to 3-0-0 overall.

Tyler Pitlick and Nick Schmaltz scored Arizona. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper stopped 24 shots.

Arizona looked like the better team from the outset, controlling the pace with more intensity than the Golden Knights, who struggled with sloppiness throughout the first period.

Vegas Golden Knights celebrate after defeating the Arizona Coyotes in an NHL hockey game Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP PhotoJohn Locher)

Pitlick took advantage of Vegas’ miscues when he intercepted Mark Stone's pass in Arizona’s zone, skated the length of the ice and beat Lehner with a wrist shot that went off the crossbar and in to put the Coyotes on the board with a short-handed goal. It was Pitlick’s first goal and point as a member of the Coyotes after spending last season with Philadelphia.

Vegas had two of its better chances in the second period, both during a penalty kill. William Karlsson hit the left corner of the post on a breakaway, and Tomas Nosek failed to find the five-hole during a 2-on-0 break, as Kuemper came up big again.

Schmaltz rewarded his netminder by giving him a 2-0 lead when his shot from the right circle appeared to carom off Vegas defenseman Alec Martinez and past Lehner. Derick Brassard assist on the goal was 300th of his career.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner (90) blocks a shot beside Arizona Coyotes right wing Christian Fischer (36) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP PhotoJohn Locher)

Pacioretty got Vegas on the board with a nifty shot from behind the goal line, where he chipped his own rebound off the back of Kuemper’s shoulder with Vegas’ first shot on goal after an 11:28 drought to cut Arizona’s lead in half.

Smith, who scored a career-high 27 goals last season, backhanded his first of the season after linemate William Karlsson dished a beautiful no-look backward pass between his legs from behind the net four minutes into the third period.

Smith’s empty-net goal with 12 seconds left iced the game.

Arizona Coyotes defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) catches a puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Vegas Golden Knights, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP PhotoJohn Locher)

UP NEXT

The Coyotes and Golden Knights meet again Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena as part of a four-game, home-and-home series, with the final two taking place Friday and Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.

More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Arizona Coyotes defenseman Kyle Capobianco (75) and Vegas Golden Knights center Nicolas Roy (10) battle for the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP PhotoJohn Locher)