VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — By the time the Elvis Presley impersonator singing tunes between whistles had left the building, the NHL’s newest franchise was already well on its way to victory in its first exhibition game.
Tyler Wong scored three times and added an assist to help the expansion Vegas Golden Knights rout the Vancouver Canucks 9-4 on Sunday. Wong scored the first exhibition goal in club history.
“It’s a huge honor,” Wong said. “The city’s very excited to get a team. To be a part of excitement like that is something special. It’s a pretty cool moment for all of us.”
The Golden Knights dressed a roster of mostly prospects and fringe NHLers, leaving behind the likes of forwards James Neal, Jonathan Marchessault, David Perron and Cody Eakin, defensemen Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland, and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
In the spirit of Vegas’ debut, the Elvis impersonator sang classics like “Viva Las Vegas” and “Burning Love” during some of the TV timeouts at Rogers Arena for some added Sin City flair to what was, for the most part, a sloppy game.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity being able to be part of an expansion team,” said Golden Knights forward Cody Glass, the sixth pick in the draft this summer. “I’m just trying to take it all in.”
Vegas coach Gerard Gallant was happy with the way his youngsters performed, but like his players, also took the opportunity to soak in the moment.
“We had two rookie games last week, but this is the first real NHL game,” Gallant said. “The first time stepping on the ice was real good and you do feel good about it.”
Tomas Hyka scored twice, Tomas Nosek had a goal and two assists, and Nick Suzuki added a goal and an assist. Paul Thompson and Alex Tuch also scored, Brad Hunt chipped in with three assists, and Glass had two assists.
Wearing their road white uniforms with grey, gold and red trim, along with black pants and white and gold gloves, the Golden Knights survived a 5-on-3 power play for 1:44 early in the first period before Wong opened the scoring. The winger collected a chipped feed from Glass on a power play, cut down the right and beat goalie Richard Bachman with a short-side backhander at 4:58.
“The puck was finding me in good spots,” said Wong, who had 43 goals and 46 assists in 72 games last season in junior with the Lethbridge Hurricanes last season and signed as an undrafted free agent. “I was able to bury them.”
Brock Boeser scored twice and had an assist for Vancouver. Philip Holm and Jordan Subban also scored.
Almost all of the Canucks’ veterans were on a charter plane on their way to China for games against the Los Angeles Kings in Beijing and Shanghai. Trent Cull, the head coach of the Canucks’ AHL affiliate in Utica, New York, was behind the bench, with Travis Green and his assistants on their way to China.
The Golden Knights will play three more times on the road before their first preseason home game Sept. 26 against Los Angeles.
“I hope (Vegas fans) don’t expect that every night,” Gallant said. “It’s a lot of fun in our market and I am sure they are going to enjoy that, but it’s an exhibition game.”