It has been roughly 34 months since the NHL's board of governors agreed to allow a Vegas ownership group headed by Bill Foley to hold a season ticket drive to gauge the interest in a franchise. Tonight, the Vegas Golden Knights played their first official NHL game at T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada.
It finally happened. We made it.
Tonight the Golden Knights took on the depleted Los Angeles Kings in preseason action — depleted because the majority of the Kings’ NHL talent was still recovering from the team’s trip to China, leaving mostly prospects and AHL players to dress against Vegas.
Meanwhile, Vegas appeared to be unveiling its opening night forward lineup or at least something closely resembling what it will be come Oct. 6.
As you might expect, the disparity in talent plus the boost from finally being in front of the home crowd led to a first period that looked ... well, let's say it was one-sided:
And yet, inexplicably, the game was tied at one through 20 minutes. The Kings spent went the first 10 minutes of the second period without a shot before the tides quickly turned. In a span of just three minutes the Kings fired their first six shots on net, one of which resulted in a goal, and suddenly, despite being outplayed for much of the game, the Kings found themselves with a 2-1 lead.
The Golden Knights battled back in the third with the tying goal coming off the stick of William Carrier. The teams exchanged multiple scoring chances in the final minutes of the game but nothing was decided.
Free hockey is the best hockey. Especially when your team wins. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Twelve seconds into the extra period Nate Schmidt was stripped of the puck behind his own goal and, after a battle in front, Brooks Laich capitalized with the game-winning goal.
Goal scorers for Vegas were Cody Eakin and Carrier. For the Kings, Nic Dowd, Kurtis MacDermid and Laich lit the lamp.
Here are five notes and observations from the Golden Knights’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Kings.
The first goal scorer in Vegas Golden Knight history at T-Mobile Arena is...
Cody Eakin. As we all predicted. It was a nice little play off the boards that led to the scoring chance and goal, and it seemed like only a matter of time before the Golden Knights broke free after dominating play for much of the first period. He even made a fan of one Knights On Ice writer.
Eakin looked pretty good tonight, managing quite a few shots and generating a massive amount of possession 5-v-5 (66.7 Corsi-For Percentage) despite his less-than-favorable zone starts (16.7 ZS%).
The Smith-Shipachyov-Marchessault has good chemistry
The top line was flying at even strength in this one. We'll get to why I specifically mention even strength a bit later. Jonathan Marchessault had multiple chances but struggled to put the puck on net. Still, the fact that the trio ramped up the offensive pressure is a very positive sign for the Golden Knights going forward.
If there’s one complaint, it would be that Vadim Shipachyov is perhaps too passive. One cannot fault the playmaking center as his linemates, Marchessault in particular, were very good in this one, but we'd like to see him shoot a bit more when the opportunity arises.
The Golden Knights power play looks bad
Like, really bad. The first unit of what appeared to be Alex Tuch with the Smith-Shipachyov-Marchessault line and Shea Theodore on the back end, along with the second unit that featured David Perron, Eakin, and Oscar Lindberg with Colin Miller and Schmidt, were unable to sustain any real pressure. They had a scoring chance or two but never really felt dangerous at any point. They finished the night 0-for-4 on the power play.
The Golden Knights penalty kill looks good
I noted on Twitter that it sure seemed like the Golden Knights had more pressure a man down than the Kings did on the power play. Reilly Smith, Erik Haula, Theodore, and Deryk Engelland were a big part of that and came up big time and time again for the team, including Engelland clearing a trickling puck off the goal line before any King could tap it in. The Kings finished the game 0-for-4, as well, with the man advantage.
The defense looked very good, but was it enough?
No defender finished with less than a 55.5 CF% and the team as a whole finished at just over 64 percent. They dominated possession and, apart from the one costly turnover at the end, didn’t look bad, albeit facing less than top NHL talent. It’s difficult to tell whether it will be enough for any of the bubble players to lock up a roster spot but they all helped their case.
Luca Sbisa was heavily sheltered with an 85.7 zone start percentage on a pairing with Schmidt, but the two had a 70.8 CF% together so it’s difficult to fault them as a pair. Engelland looked solid with Theodore and the two had a positive night in terms of possession, and Engelland was very good on the PK.
Overall it was a dominant night for the unit and should serve to put pressure on Griffin Reinhart, Brayden McNabb and Jason Garrison in the battle for roster spots and ice time.
Your move, gentlemen.
The Golden Knights are back in action on Thursday when they welcome the Colorado Avalanche to T-Mobile Arena. The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. PT start and will be broadcast on AT&T SportsNet and Altitude.