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Year 2, Game 1: Golden Knights struggle in season opener, lose 5-2 to Flyers

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A few notable absences cause some issues in the Knights’ home season opener.

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Vegas Golden Knights lost 5-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers in Thursday night’s season opener. The Flyers dominated on the offensive front, with Wayne Simmonds notching two goals.

The Golden Knights had a few notably absent players, and it showed in their first regular-season game. Both Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin sat out with injuries, and Nate Schmidt has just begun to serve his 20-game suspension for a PED violation.

The defense especially seemed to struggle without Schmidt, failing to fend off Philadelphia’s attackers when it mattered. Vegas and Philadelphia each had 25 shots on goal, but the Golden Knights struggled to clear the high-danger areas.

The Knights began looking as they did all last season — fast. Within the first minute of the game, Paul Stastny broke away and had a close shot attempt on Brian Elliott.

Then Jonathan Marchessault struck at 6:37. Jon Merrill found him on the left side while the Flyers were going through a line change, and Marchessault brought it home to give Vegas the early lead.

However, Philadelphia responded when the opportunity arrived. Nick Holden was forced to cover two Flyers when his fellow defenseman John Merrill failed to catch up at the net. Oskar Lindblom tucked the puck behind Marc-Andre Fleury and off of Holden’s skate to tie the game.

Then, to end the first period on a low note, Simmonds scored his first goal of the season off yet another defensive gaffe. Oscar Lindberg deflected the initial shot out of the net, but Simmonds was waiting in his office to ram it home. Philadelphia led 2-1.

The second period proved to be equally rough. On a power play, the Flyers once again took advantage of the Knights being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Deryk Engelland’s stick broke and ended up using Tomas Nosek’s, leaving his teammate without one. Simmonds held his spot near the net and scored before any Knights player could get to him. 3-1 Flyers.

Robert Hagg also found a hole in the Knights defense, skating past Merill and Holden with ease. He shot the puck high into the net, bringing Philadelphia to a three-goal lead.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, Scott Laughton perfectly redirected a shot from Radko Gudas past Fleury just over a minute later. Make that 5-1 Flyers.

And that was just the first half of the game.

The Golden Knights made the decision to pull Fleury from the net at the game’s midway point. Malcolm Subban stepped in and delivered a solid performance, keeping the puck out of the net for the rest of the night.

Vegas managed to get some good shots on goal the rest of the game. One from Erik Haula just barely missed, hitting the post. Machessault also had an attempt close to the net, going off a pass from Stastny.

Unfortunately, by the time the third period came along, the damage had been done. Even an additional shorthanded goal from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare couldn’t save the Knights from what was otherwise a sloppy performance.

The clear takeaway; this defense needs some work. Holden and Merrill especially failed to play up to par as three of the Flyers’ goals were scored while they were on the ice. Schmidt’s absence was certainly felt Thursday night in T-Mobile Arena.

With the first game under their belt, the Golden Knights must hit the road to play the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. The quest for their first win of the season continues, but the story of this season is far from over.