LAS VEGAS — Max Pacioretty scored in his return for the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup First Round against the Minnesota Wild at T-Mobile Arena on Friday.
The forward gave Vegas a 3-2 lead 7:44 into the second period. The Golden Knights won 6-2 to advance to the second round.
“I think it was important for me not to get too emotional,” Pacioretty said. “It’s definitely a lot more nerve-wracking when you’re sitting up there watching and you don’t have any control over the game. I’d much rather be on the ice than up in the press box watching.”
Vegas next plays the Colorado Avalanche, with Game 1 on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
“We go up 3-1 (in the best-of-7 series), but them coming back with the adversity will make us stronger in the long run,” Pacioretty said. “To come out and play the game the way we did in a Game 7 with our backs against the wall, with the group we have, moving forward, it’s nice to play with that kind of depth. We got contributions from every line tonight, and that’s how we’ve got to play going forward. It makes hockey a lot more fun, as well.”
Pacioretty had not played since May 1, when he sustained an undisclosed injury at the Arizona Coyotes. He played at his usual left wing position with linemates Chandler Stephenson and Mark Stone.
“There were some good days and bad days, but I turned the corner there a couple of days ago,” Pacioretty said. “A lot of people behind the scenes were helping me around the clock to get to where I’m at, and that’s what helped me feel so good tonight.”
Pacioretty is the fifth player to score a series’ game-winning goal in in his first game of the postseason, the first since Doug Brown for the Detroit Red Wings against the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of 1998 conference semifinals.
Pacioretty had not taken part in practice since being injured. The Golden Knights scored two goals in losing Games 5 and 6 after scoring 12 winning Games 2, 3 and 4.
Pacioretty led Vegas with 24 goals this season, and was second with 51 points to Stone, who scored 61 points (21 goals, 40 assists). Pacioretty scored 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in his last 10 games of the regular season.
“I think everyone watching at home and in the building, and for anyone who knows who Max Pacioretty is and what he does for our team, you know what kind of boost he is, especially as another guy in the room, a leader, a guy that plays with passion and fire,” Vegas defenseman Zach Whitecloud said. “He wants to score every game and score as much as he can. When you have that guy in your room and on the ice, it makes a world of difference. You saw what he did tonight.”