LAS VEGAS — The Golden Knights once again gave a up third-period lead. The difference this time was they responded.
Reilly Smith converted a pass from Michael Amadio with 3:42 left to give the Knights a 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night before an announced crowd of 17,669 at T-Mobile Arena.
The Knights had have two recent losses, each by 3-2, after leading in the third — at Chicago on Feb. 21 and against Dallas on Saturday. Both opponents forced overtime late and won in shootouts.
“We’ve been playing good hockey,” Smith said. “We let a few games slip out of our reach the last three weeks, and those points can come back and haunt you at the end of the year. So it meant a lot to win this one and get two points.”
The Knights went back into first place alone in the Pacific Division with 78 points, two ahead of the Los Angeles. With points in 10 of the past 11 games (7-1-3), the Knights lead the Western Conference in points.
Carolina, which is first in the Metropolitan Division with 86 points, lost back-to-back games for the first time since Jan. 3 and 5. The Hurricanes’ lead over New Jersey dropped to just a point after the Devils beat Colorado 7-5.
Jack Eichel scored two goals for the Knights, both coming in the second period. The first was on a shot from the slot and the second on a breakaway for a 2-1 lead. He has scored five goals in five games and has a team-high 22.
“We let him alone a couple of times, and he’s not going to miss,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
Ivan Barbashev assisted on Eichel’s second goal, giving him his first point since being acquired from St. Louis on Sunday.
“He’s a smart player,” Eichel said. “He makes a lot of good plays. He goes to the net hard. He’s pretty easy to play with. I think just the more we spend time together and play, the chemistry will continue to get better. We’ve just got to feed off each other and make those little plays.”
Smith’s goal came after Carolina tied the score with 7:16 left in the third period as Jordan Staal redirected Brent Burns’ shot from the point.
The Hurricanes’ other goal came from right wing Martin Necas, who has a team-best 53 points. Necas faked out Vegas defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and scored from the slot.
Amadio’s assist came in his 100th career game for the Knights, and Smith’s goal was just his second in 20 games.
“He’s had a lot of good looks,” Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said of Smith. “At the end of the day, I know he feels good about it. So should (Amadio). He had a really good game on the wall and really complemented that line.”
Frederik Andersen finished with 17 saves for Carolina; the Knights’ Adin Hill stopped 24 shots.
The game had a playoff atmosphere to it, and it was the kind of tight-checking game that’s common in the postseason.
“I think that type of hockey wins in the playoffs,” Cassidy said. “If you’re taking care of the puck and checking well and scoring and all that, that’s what we did today.”