Before Gerard Gallant embarked on his journey to coach the expansion Vegas Golden Knights Adidas Chris Kunitz Jersey , he and former boss Doug MacLean sat down for breakfast and wondered what was ahead.”He didn’t know what the situation was,” MacLean said. ”He thought it was going to be tough.”No one saw this coming – not Gallant, general manager George McPhee, their players, Vegas odds makers or anyone in hockey. Thanks to a never-before-seen combination of speed, motivation, confidence and goaltending, the Golden Knights already set the NHL record for victories by a first-year expansion team, sit comfortably atop the Pacific Division and are a near-lock to make the playoffs.Vegas stockpiled draft picks and young talent with the long-term future in mind. It also got franchise goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, 50-point producer Jonathan Marchessault and 27-goal-scorer William Karlsson and went from the league’s most pleasant surprise to a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.”Didn’t think we’d be in first place at this time of the year, but the way they played and the confidence they got over the first 10 games, it grew with the team,” Gallant said. ”We’re a good hockey team, and we know it and when we play our game we’ve got a chance to beat anybody.”With Bill Foley paying $500 million to get a team, commissioner Gary Bettman sought to ensure Vegas would be competitive, so McPhee got to pick from the best player pool of any expansion franchise thus far. Even with that advantage Adidas Brandon Manning Jersey , the Golden Knights on paper looked like a team lacking top-end scorers and defensemen that would need Fleury to steal games.”Everybody wanted them to be competitive, but they wanted them to be competitive enough but miss the playoffs by seven or eight points,” said MacLean, whose expansion 2000-01 Columbus Blue Jackets won just 28 games. ”This has caught them off-guard.”The Westgate sports book opened the Golden Knights 200-1 to win the Cup and sold a handful tickets when they fell to 500-1 over the summer. After Westgate vice president Jay Kornegay said ”no one cared to bet them early,” he and his colleagues around Las Vegas risk losing a ton of money on futures wagers for them to win the Pacific Division, Western Conference and the Cup.Off the ice, the Golden Knights became a rallying point for the community before they even played a game after the Oct. 1 shooting on the Strip killed 58 people and injured hundreds more. They won their first three and nine of their first 10, and Bettman said ”the bonding that has gone on is something that’s extraordinary.”The bond between these players is multilayered, notably because All-Star winger James Neal pointed out everyone had something to prove after being left unprotected in the expansion draft or getting traded to Vegas. Gallant was even literally left at the curb by the Florida Panthers when they fired him on the road last season, and each night a different player is motivated to perform against his old team.”You see a Tuesday night versus Columbus, Will Karlsson is really excited to play and he goes out there and has a terrific game and guys look towards that each and every night,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said. ”You look towards that guy to give you a little extra spark no matter what city you’re in.”Previous expansion teams have had the same drive but couldn’t dream of this type of success. The Panthers and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim shared the old record with 33 victories in 1993-94, and Vegas is fast approaching Florida’s record 83 points with almost 30 games remaining.”Their fourth line was my first line,” said veteran coach Barry Trotz, who added he met most of his players on the 1998-99 expansion Nashville Predators in the press box when they were healthy scratches the previous year. ”We didn’t get a 30- and a 40-goal scorer. We didn’t have that. We didn’t have a No. 1 goaltender.”Analyst Ray Ferraro, who played for the expansion Atlanta Thrashers in 1999-2000 Adidas Cam Ward Jersey , credited McPhee for putting the team together with an eye on the modern NHL and the way the game is headed.”They didn’t even consider a player that couldn’t skate, that wasn’t fast, because that is the premier element of the game today,” Ferraro said. ”They went fast, fast, fast and fast. So when you play Vegas, if you can’t keep up, eventually they just wear you down.”Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice said Vegas doesn’t just skate fast but makes it hard on teams by moving the puck fast and making quick, smart decisions all over the ice. Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano said teams around the league are now using the Golden Knights as a measuring stick.Even though it would take a historic fall for the Golden Knights not to make the playoffs, they’re trying to keep the expectations down internally.”If the season ended tomorrow, then we’d be happy, but it doesn’t,” McPhee said. ”We all realize that it doesn’t mean anything until the season’s over and you know where you sit.”There has been a noticeable evolution from the start of the season when players expected to make mistakes to now when they expect to win. Gallant has instilled enough belief in all his players that they’ve returned it tenfold.”We are a group of guys that has come in Vegas with maybe not so much trust from all around the hockey world but a group of coaches that give us trust every night,” forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. ”When you play the right way, you create a little bit your bounces and you create your luck a bit and that gives you confidence.”Confidence has been a constant for Vegas even after it lost Fleury, backup goaltender Malcolm Subban and No. 3 option Oscar Dansk to injury at the same time Adidas Matt Calvert Jersey , staying afloat with fourth-stringer Maxime Lagace. Trotz said the Golden Knights have been ”playing with house money” all season, a feeling MacLean remembers from coaching the third-year Panthers in 1995-96 when they were in first place at Christmas.”You get to a point where you don’t think you can lose,” MacLean said.Long gone are the days of bare-bones expansion, and the Golden Knights’ success means Seattle is in line to get the same set of rules upon paying $650 million to become the 32nd team in a few years. With its three 2017 first-round picks all looking like top prospects and 12 selections in the top three rounds over the next three drafts, Vegas is already the blueprint for sustained success.Everyone’s just waiting to see how this Cinderella season ends up.”Before we crown them playoff champions here, there’s a lot of road to go,” Ferraro said. ”This is not a one-year flash. A lot of things are going right for them and that’s good planning and good fortune, but I think they’ve set themselves up for a real nice start to their franchise.” OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) Robin Lehner always enjoys playing against his former team. Picking up a 4-3 shootout win over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday made it that much more enjoyable.Lehner stopped two of three shooters in the shootout to improve to 6-0-3 against the Senators since being traded to the Sabres in 2015.”We needed this win and it was a pretty fun game,” said Lehner, who made 37 saves.This was just the second game of the season to go to a shootout for the Sabres, with their last one on opening night.Jacob Josefson scored the shootout winner for Buffalo, which was coming off a disappointing 5-1 loss to Calgary. The Flames and Ottawa will play Friday.”I think our focus and the response we made tonight was a great response,” Sabres coach Phil Housley said. ”After having – I wouldn’t say a poor effort in our building – with travel and coming out here, I liked the way we started.”From top to bottom everyone contributed (Thursday), especially with our team everybody’s got to be going and I thought everybody had a big part in the game.”Marco Scandella Adidas Conor Timmins Jersey , Sam Reinhart and Scott Wilson scored in regulation for the Sabres.With the win the Sabres, who sit last in the East, are just two points back of the Senators.Ryan Dzingel led the way for the Senators in regulation with two goals, while Thomas Chabot scored his sixth of the season. Craig Anderson made 31 saves.The Senators, who had a number of stellar chances, felt they deserved a better fate on this night.”In the second and third, we threw everything at them except the kitchen sink and it didn’t go in,” Senators coach Guy Boucher said. ”We couldn’t come closer than we did. You have to give credit to the goaltender, he played terrific.”Trailing 3-2, the Sabres tied the game just 27 seconds into the third as Ryan O’Reilly found Wilson in front and he beat Anderson high.The Senators had a number of chances to regain the lead, but Lehner either made the stop or had luck on his side.Dzingel tied it at 1 just 36 seconds into the second period as he fired a shot from the slot, and then gave the Senators the lead with his 19th of the season three minutes later.”I haven’t had that much fun in a while,” said Dzingel, who played alongside Matt Duchene and Mike Hoffman. ”Just feeding off those guys and complimenting them and it clicked. … Hopefully we can stick together.”Dzingel, who turns 26 on Friday, has been a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for the Senators.”I’ve always personally believed he could be a 20-goal scorer with what he did last year Adidas Ian Cole Jersey ,” Boucher said. ”It doesn’t surprise me how well he’s played. To score 20 goals is quite an accomplishment in this league, especially considering it’s just his second season, and he needs just one more and I believe he’ll accomplish the feat. He’s a nice story this season for our team.”Buffalo was able to tie the game midway through the second as Reinhart jumped on a loose puck in front and scored off his backhand, but the Senators made it 3-2 as Chabot beat Lehner glove side.”We needed a bounce-back game from last night,” said Reinhart. ”It was nice to gut that one out.”The Senators nearly made it 4-2 as shots from Dzingel and Hoffman slid across the goal line, but Benoit Pouliot was able to clear the puck before Ottawa got another chance.”I saw it live, I saw it on the replay and I couldn’t believe it,” Duchene said. ”At the start of the period, that probably goes in with the fresh ice, but end of the period it literally died right on the goal post. I haven’t seen one that close, probably ever.”The Sabres opened the scoring at the 17-minute mark of the first as Scandella kept the puck in at the blue line, spun and put a shot through traffic past Anderson.NOTES: Ottawa C Tom Pyatt returned to the lineup after missing Monday’s game with the flu. … LW Max McCormick and D Erik Burgdoerfer were healthy scratches for the Senators. … Buffalo D Josh Gorges returned to the lineup after missing the last five games.UP NEXTSabres: vs. Vegas on Saturday.Senators: vs. Calgary on Saturday night.