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    January 8, 2019 1:14 AM PST

    LAS VEGAS (AP) At the start of the NHL season www.officialblues.com ;, most figured the Vegas Golden Knights would be struggling heading into the final month and would be sellers at the trade deadline.Instead, they’re perched atop the league standings with 86 points, ahead of Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay, which has 85.William Karlsson scored two goals and Reilly Smith had three assists to lead the Golden Knights to a 6-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night.Tomas Hyka, Jonathan Marchessault, Tomas Nosek and David Perron also scored for the Golden Knights.Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury, who is four wins shy of becoming the 13th goalie in NHL history to register 400 career wins, stopped 30 shots.Vegas, which has won five of its past six games, improved to 16-2-1 against Pacific Division teams.”I hate having seven-game homestands to be honest with you because you’re going to have some ups and downs,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. ”It’s tough to keep your guys focused all the time. But overall, to go 5-2 on this homestand, I thought we played for the most part good hockey. We scored a lot of goals. I thought our defensive game gotta get a little bit better. But we’re playing well, overall it’s been very good, I’ve been very happy with it.”Vancouver, which dropped to 3-7-1 in February, is 5-11-1 against intradivision foes.The Canucks got goals from Sven Baertschi, Thomas Vanek and Daniel Sedin.Anders Nilsson, who played in his 100th career game, had 19 saves for the Canucks before being replaced by Jacob Markstrom at the start of the third period. Markstrom made 8 stops for Vancouver.”It’s definitely frustrating, I’m not happy with the loss,” Vancouver coach Travis Green said. ”The players gotta realize that against a quick team they’re not gonna have as much time and space if you turn the puck over a couple of times inside their blue line.”Vegas opened the scoring when Hyka St. Louis Blues T-Shirts Authentic , playing in just his third NHL game, scored his first career goal 2:29 into the game.”I’m kind of still getting used to (the NHL), everything is faster compared to the IHL, but I play with two really good guys and they make a lot of things there for me and I’m just really happy I can play with them,” said the 24-year-old Hyka, about his linemates Cody Eakin and Ryan Carpenter.The Canucks then displayed a little bit of offensive prowess of their own, tying the game when Sam Gagner’s pass slipped under Vegas defenseman Luca Sbisa and Baertschi punched it home, then taking a 2-1 lead when Vanek tapped in a loose puck.Vegas reclaimed the lead on a pair of Karlsson goals, late in the first period and 5:36 into the second. Karlsson’s two goals give him 33 for the season, third-best in the NHL behind Washington’s Alex Ovechkin (36) and Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin (34).The Golden Knights extended their lead to 5-2 on Marchessault’s 22nd goal of the season, and Tomas Nosek’s seventh of the campaign.Sedin, who notched his 16th goal of the season when he beat Fleury top shelf with a power play goal 4:28 into the third period, said the Canucks haven’t seen a team faster than the Golden Knights all season.”If you’re a second too late, they’re gonna pass right by you and come the other way,” said Sedin, who has seven points in his last seven games. ”These guys can score, they got offensive skill up front and we knew it was going to be a back and forth game. We played good in the first and good in the third, but in the second it got away from of us.”Perron was credited with an empty net goal when the Canucks inadvertently sent the puck the length of the ice for the final margin. Along with his assist on Nosek’s goal, Perron tied his career-high of 57 points.DEALING:Just prior to the game, the Golden Knights were in fact involved in a three-team deal with Ottawa and Pittsburgh in which Vegas gave up American Hockey League prospect Tobias Lindberg. In turn, the Golden Knights will receive Penguins forward Ryan Reaves and a fourth-round pick from the Canucks. The deal also sent Senators center Derick Brassard to the Penguins, who sent defenseman Ian Cole St. Louis Blues Hoodies Authentic , goalie prospect Filip Gustavsson and draft picks to the Senators.While the trade deadline is Monday at Noon eastern, several of the Golden Knights said the team is too focused on their playoff push to worry about major moves affecting the roster.”We definitely have good players all around our lineup … we like our team, we like the chemistry here,” Marchessault said before the game. ”Stuff can happen and you don’t necessarily expect it. A lot of things can happen and it’s out of your control, it’s part of the game. At the end of the day you gotta trust your organization.”NOTESVegas has now scored a power-play goal in 14 of its last 16 games. … The Golden Knights are 25-3-0 record when scoring the first goal of the game while their .893 win percentage when recording the opening mark leads the NHL. … Baertschi now has seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) over the past seven games.UP NEXTVancouver: At Arizona on SundayVegas: At Los Angeles on Monday TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals overcame a major hurdle by reaching the Eastern Conference final.Just like that, they’re in a full-on sprint toward the finish.The Capitals scored in the opening minute of the game and twice in the last 1:02 of the second period Sunday night to pull away to a 6-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning and a 2-0 lead in the East final.”It’s huge but it’s not over yet,” Ovechkin said. ”We played hard and played smart. You can see all four lines doing their job.”Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller each had a goal and two assists. Ovechkin and Tom Wilson had a goal and an assist apiece for the Caps, who took the first two games of the best-of-seven matchup on the road. Since 1974-75, teams that take a 2-0 lead in the conference final or semifinal have a series record of 39-2 (95.1 percent).”We didn’t panic. Just stayed to the system and played the right way,” Ovechkin said. ”We stayed calm and waited for our opportunities.”Devante Smith-Pelly and Brett Connolly also scored, helping Washington improve to 7-1 on the road this postseason. It’s their first visit to the conference final during Ovechkin’s 13-season career.”You’re on the road and it’s us against them, and this group has really bonded,” coach Barry Trotz said. ”They’ve got a lot of resiliency, and they’re having fun.”Game 3 is Tuesday night in Washington.The Lightning had the best record in the Eastern Conference this season and breezed through the first rounds of the playoffs against New Jersey and Boston.Little has gone right against the Capitals.”For a team that’s been used to being able to make some plays, we sure haven’t made them in these two games. It’s very uncharacteristic of us. That’s the difference. They’ve made plays, we haven’t. And it’s cost us,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.”We’ve just played tentative and a little bit slow. We didn’t get 113 points by playing that way. We didn’t win the first two rounds by playing that way,” Cooper added. ”For some reason for two games, that’s the way we’ve played.”Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos had early power-play goals for Tampa Bay, which rebounded after falling behind on Wilson’s goal 28 seconds into the game.Smith-Pelly’s one-timer finished an odd-man rush and made it 2-2 at 2:30 of the second period. The Caps took control when Eller scored with 1:02 remaining and Kuznetsov – with assists from Ovechkin and Eller – delivered on a power play less than a minute later.Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was called for tripping Andre Burakovsky with 10 seconds left in the period. Kuznetsov scored seven seconds later to make it 4-2 St. Louis Blues Hats Authentic , the second time in the series the Caps stunned the Lightning with a power-play goal in the closing seconds of a period.Ovechkin and Connolly finished the rout with third-period goals. Braden Holtby stopped 33 of 35 shots to improve to 10-3 this postseason.”We’ve defended this entire playoffs up until these last couple of games, and that’s why we’ve had success,” Stamkos said. ”We haven’t defended with the same urgency. We’re leaving our goalie out to dry.”Ovechkin also had a goal and an assist in Washington’s 4-2 victory in Game 1.Vasilevskiy was pulled from the opener after facing 25 shots in two periods, but the Lightning didn’t pin the loss on him. Instead, they vowed to play harder in front of the young goaltender, who finished with 31 saves in Game 2.Tampa Bay benefited early from a couple of questionable penalties – Wilson for goaltender interference and T.J. Oshie for high-sticking Victor Hedman, when the Tampa Bay defenseman actually was struck by the puck – to score twice in just over three minutes on the power play for a 2-1 lead.Stamkos and Hedman assisted on Point’s goal at 7:08 of the first. Stamkos’ fourth goal in five games gave Tampa Bay its first lead of the series.The Lightning will have to turn the series around on the road to return to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2015.”We’ll prepare for the toughest game that we’ve played all season,” Stamkos said. ”It’s gut-check time. Let’s see who we really are.”NOTES: Washington’s John Carlson had two assists, giving him 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) this postseason. That’s a club record by a defenseman in one playoff year. He had been tied for the most with Kevin Hatcher (5-7-12, 1988), Scott Stevens (1-11-12, 1988) and himself (5-7-12, 2016). … Before Sunday night, the Lightning had won Game 2 of a series five consecutive times after losing Game 1. They’re 4-2 in six previous series in which they lost Game 1, with those series losses coming in the first round in 2014 against Montreal and the 2015 Stanley Cup Final against Chicago. … Capitals C Nicklas Backstrom, who took a shot from Justin Schultz off his right hand in Game 5 of Washington’s second-round series against the Penguins, missed his third straight game. He took part in the morning skate on a limited basis and remains day-to-day. … Hedman has a franchise-record, seven-game point streak (eight assists). Martin St. Louis had a six-game streak in 2004.—