Just like that, the Golden Knights’ Nevada Day record now stands at 1-1-0.
Last season the Golden Knights ran the Colorado Avalanche out of town on Nevada Day, beating them 7-0. This year’s match played out a little bit differently, as the Tampa Bay Lightning rolled into the desert with a scorching 6-1-1 record and proved to be too hot for the Knights to handle.
It was a close contest that eventually became a one-goal game in the third period, but Vegas was unable to knot things up in the third. A controversial challenge in the second period arguably was the turning point of the game, and while Vegas controlled play in the final frame, Tampa Bay held on with a 3-2 win.
The big news out of the game is that Max Pacioretty left early in the first period and did not return. He logged just 1:47 of ice time before taking an elbow to the head from Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn.
Pacioretty’s injury is another hit to the Golden Knights’ second line.
The Knights splurged this offseason by signing free agent Paul Stastny and acquiring Pacioretty to fill out what should have been one of the best second lines in the league. Instead, Stastny only appeared in three games before injuring himself, and he may be out until Christmas. Coach Gerard Gallant was able to shuffle the lines today, using Jonathan Marchessault on the second line since both Tomas Nosek and Tomas Hyka were serving as healthy scratches. But it’s unclear how much time, if any, Pacioretty may miss as a result of today’s game. No update on his status has been reported.
However, at least one good thing came out of today’s loss.
After the Lightning took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Tyler Johnson a little over three minutes into the game, Shea Theodore became the first Golden Knights defenseman to score a goal in the 2018-19 season.
It may have taken 10 games to get here, but it seems fitting that it was Theodore who got things started for the Knights’ blue line, especially considering his first-period goal was his sixth point in Vegas’ three games against Tampa Bay. With a beautiful screen from Oscar Lindberg, Theodore was able to blast in a one-timer from the point to tie things at 1-1 at 5:31 of the opening frame.
Though the Lightning added another goal in the first, the true turning point of the game came in the second period when Tampa Bay took a 3-1 lead on a controversial power-play goal. Gallant challenged the goal, but the play was determined to be onside, and the call on the ice was upheld. J.T. Miller seemed to be offside on a zone entry during the Lightning power play, but the results were deemed inconclusive.
It’s a goal that probably should have been overturned since Miller’s back skate looked to be off the ice, but even though it’s 2018, there still aren’t sufficient camera angles in NHL arenas to provide more conclusive evidence. Since the challenge was unsuccessful, Vegas was assessed a penalty for delay of game. But this time, the Knights killed it off.
Ultimately, this game came down to a battle of the special teams.
It wouldn’t be appropriate to say this without mentioning the fact that Ryan Reaves was on the second power play unit today. He’s scored a couple of goals recently so perhaps Gallant wanted to reward him, but I’m not so sure if this is the way to do it. The second unit wasn’t able to get any momentum going when they hopped on the ice with the man advantage. Granted, they were up against Tampa’s top-ranked penalty kill, which came into today’s game operating at 97 percent and had only given up one goal all season.
On the other hand, the first unit struggled at first but eventually got the puck moving well and had a decent amount of scoring chances on the Knights’ second and third power plays. Then, Vegas found itself on the power play for the fourth time of the game early in the third period, trailing Tampa Bay 3-1.
That’s when William Karlsson ripped home his third goal of the season right off a faceoff.
It was only the second power-play goal allowed by Tampa Bay all season, and it was a huge goal for the Knights, who have struggled on the man advantage all year. The power-play marker brought Vegas within one goal and completely shifted the momentum in the Knights’ favor after Tampa Bay had dominated play in the second period. Despite outshooting the Lighting 13-1 in the final frame, the Knights couldn’t get another one past Andrei Vasilevskiy for the remainder of the game.
Though it’s a difficult loss, Vegas’ response in the third period following Karlsson’s goal is a promising sign moving forward. Also, Karlsson’s shooting percentage has come back down to earth this season, but this goal could be the spark that he needs to get things going again. That, in turn, would get Vegas going again.
Overall, the game was extremely close. The second period wasn’t great for the Golden Knights, who were outshot 16-6. But in the end, the shots and scoring chances were essentially even and the Knights were a couple of bounces away from changing the outcome of the game. Their record sits below .500 again at 4-5-1.
Vegas will play the last game of a five-game homestand Sunday night against the Ottawa Senators before embarking on a short two-game road trip.