NEWARK, N.J. — “They smelled blood.”
William Karlsson was frustrated, yet matter-of-fact, in describing one of his team’s most devastating collapses, one that saw the Vegas Golden Knights give up four unanswered goals en route to a 5-4 overtime defeat.
“After we scored the third one, we kind of stopped playing,” said Karlsson, whose two goals moved him into a team lead with 13. “We let them play today, and it’s not how we should have been.”
Head coach Gerard Gallant was not pleased by his team’s effort. Said Gallant: “We played a real good first 10 minutes of the game. That was it.”
He’s not wrong. Following the game’s first 10 minutes, the Golden Knights were outshot 37-15, and outscored 5-1.
“When we got up 3-0, the boys thought it was over,” Gallant said. “It sure looked like that; we just stopped skating.”
Whether it was low energy, one too many power plays allowed, or a strong New Jersey Devils effort, the Golden Knights simply did not play well enough in front of their netminder.
Marc-Andre Fleury was thwarted in his quest to tie Hall of Famer Tony Esposito (423 W) for ninth-place on the all-time wins leaderboard after allowing five goals on 42 shots.
“When you let a team have so many Grade-A chances and you hang your goalie out to dry like that, it’s not gonna happen,” said second-year winger Alex Tuch, whose first period wraparound goal seemed to energize the Knights in the early going.
Tuch was one of the game’s stronger performers, and his new-look line with Oscar Lindberg and Paul Stastny, had the best shot share (45% at 5v5) on the team. Still, one line does not win a game on its own, and even they had some of their own struggles, allowing a pair of high-danger chances.
“Our game is transition, and turnovers don’t happen by one guy forechecking—it happens with all five guys forechecking, and we didn’t do that consistently,” Tuch said. “We sat back and let them dictate the pace of play.”
Sitting back appeared the prevailing theme in this contest, and it is now two games in a row in which the Golden Knights have not seemed to skate awfully hard, opting to play an uncharacteristically low-tempo game.
The Golden Knights will look to claim five of a possible six points on their Big Apple swing, when they take on the New York Rangers on Sunday morning (9:30am PT).