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Vegas Golden Knights right wing Alex Tuch, back center, celebrates his goal with right wing Mark Stone, back left, and defenseman Shea Theodore, back right, as Colorado Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram, front, heads back to the team box in the second period of an NHL hockey game Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Golden Knights didn’t just beat the Avalanche on Monday. They won one of the most important regular season games of the year, and did it with an exclamation point.

Vegas struggled to score in the first three games against Colorado and failed to look like the dominant team it had been against every other team this season. The Golden Knights scored three goals in the second period, beat the Avalanche 3-0 and reaffirmed themselves as the top team in the West Division.

The Golden Knights’ win ended the four-game midseason set with Colorado in a split after Vegas won the first game last week, then dropped the next two including one at Lake Tahoe on Saturday.

The win also kept Vegas atop the division. The Golden Knights have led the West in points percentage almost every day this season, and a loss, even in overtime, would have ceded the top spot to the Avalanche.

Alex Tuch and Marc-Andre Fleury made sure that wasn’t going to happen. Vegas came out hot in the first period, but a listless power play seemed to change the momentum in Colorado’s favor, as only a handful of acrobatic saves from Fleury kept the Avalanche off the scoreboard. He finished with 34 saves, his third shutout of the season.

That set up Tuch in the second period with one skillful goal and one that was more of an accident. The first one was a thing of beauty, entering the zone on a power-play with speed, collecting a William Karlsson feed and beating goalie Philipp Grubauer one-on-one at 2:53 of the second.

It was the second game in a row with a goal for Tuch, and sometimes when you’re hot, you make your own luck. Later in the period he offered a back-hander to Grubauer, who turned it away easily. Fortunately for Vegas, Grubauer’s save rebounded into the skate Colorado defenseman Bowen Byram, and the puck settled into the net at 6:14 for a 2-0 lead.

That was Vegas’ third goal in a row scored by Tuch, who also had a highlight of a spinning goal for Vegas’ final tally at Lake Tahoe. That gave Tuch seven goals on the season, one behind team-leader Max Pacioretty.

Jonathan Marchessault made sure Tuch wasn’t alone in the second period. He laced one through Grubauer’s legs at the 11:06 mark for Vegas’ third goal of the frame.

This content was originally published here.