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Young players give Golden Knights NHL debut to remember

Wong scores hat trick, Glass, Suzuki each has two points in preseason opener at Canucks

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- Gerard Gallant played 615 NHL games and has coached another 327, so a preseason game isn't something the 54-year-old normally would get too excited about.

His first game as coach of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights was different.

 

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Gallant downplayed the significance of the result, a 9-4 win against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Sunday, but admitted he took a little time before and after to soak it in.

After all, it isn't every day you get to be a part of history.

"For me, we had two rookie games last week, but this is the first real NHL game, and I think the first time stepping on the ice was real good and you do feel good about it. It's the first game I coached with this franchise, and it was good."

There was a lot of good on a day with a lot of firsts for Vegas.

Rookie forward Tyler Wong scored the first goal in Golden Knights history 4:48 into the first period and completed their first hat trick 6:56 into the third, and 18-year-old goaltender Dylan Ferguson made 29 saves for the first win.

"I was just really honored when they told me I was going to get the start tonight, and I am really happy we came out with the win and made history tonight," Ferguson said.

Video: VGK@VAN: Golden Knights tally nine in rout of Canucks

It was the other firsts that got the most attention, however, after the Golden Knights skated out for their first NHL game in their road white jerseys with steel gray, gold and red trim.

"The first (regular-season) game in October, that's going to be the big one, but definitely to be a part of this game is pretty big," defenseman Shea Theodore said. "It's definitely exciting to be part of a new team. They're trying to start something new, and we've got something really good here."

Even the debut of their matching white gloves was a talking point after.

"They're pretty flashy, but I love them," Theodore said.

Theodore was one of nine Golden Knights with NHL experience, and with most of their expected inaugural roster at home, it was up to those players to calm a young group on a historic night.

"I was pretty nervous going into it," said Wong, a 21-year-old who signed in May with the Chicago Wolves, Vegas' American Hockey League affiliate, as an undrafted free agent after he had 109 points (51 goals, 58 assists) in 69 games for Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League last season. "To have that veteran presence in the room really helped us all."

The young Golden Knights certainly didn't look nervous in their debut against the Canucks, who also were missing most of their regulars. Only two players from last season dressed after most of Vancouver's veterans left earlier in the day for two preseason games against the Los Angeles Kings at the 2017 NHL China Games presented by O.R.G. Packaging.

Video: VGK@VAN: Wong tallies Vegas' first preseason goal

Gallant cautioned not to read too much into a mistake-filled game with lots of young players on each side, but he was impressed by his rookies. In addition to Wong's hat trick, Cody Glass, who was selected with the No. 6 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, had two assists, and Nick Suzuki, who was chosen with the No. 13 pick in 2017, had a goal and an assist.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Glass said. "I just try to enjoy every second of it. It's my first training camp, preseason, everything, so I am just trying to take it all in."

The Canucks welcomed the Golden Knights with an Elvis Presley impersonator who performed during breaks each period. They announced, "Elvis has left the building," after his final song early in the third period, but the game was long over by then.

Tomas Hyka scored twice, and Tomas Nosek, Alex Tuch, and Paul Thompson each had a goal for Vegas in a debut that bodes well for the future of an expansion team built with an eye to long-term success.

"We had a lot of players in the draft, and all the kids since development camp and rookie camp are impressing us," Gallant said. "If they make the team, great, and if they don't and they are not quite ready, they will go back and develop. But it's good to see your kids perform."

Nine goals won't hurt the building excitement for the new team back in Las Vegas either.

"I just hope they don't expect that every night," Gallant said.

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