The Vegas Golden Knights had the Anaheim Ducks’ number in their first three meetings, but Anaheim would finally get the better of them Monday night in a 2-0 Ducks victory.
As always, here’s what we learned from the contest:
1. James Neal’s absence was felt
Neal was held out of the lineup Monday night as he battled an illness. Unsurprisingly, the 30-year-old forward, who has potted 24 goals this season, left a pretty big void in the Golden Knights’ lineup.
Rookie winger Alex Tuch replaced Neal in his usual spot on the second line with Erik Haula and David Perron, but the results weren’t all that encouraging. Tuch finished the night with a 42.31 Corsi For percentage at 5v5 — one of his lower totals of the season. Granted, it was Tuch’s first game playing on a new line in quite some time, so his poor possession numbers may be due to a lack of chemistry with his new linemates.
Regardless, though, Tuch isn’t James Neal. The 21-year-old has a lot of promise, but expecting him to seamlessly fill in for Neal simply isn’t realistic. At least not at this point in his career.
2. Vegas’ makeshift fourth line used sparingly, but Hyka impresses
There was a lot of anticipation going into Tomas Hyka’s NHL debut as he filled in for Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on the fourth line, but not a lot ended up coming out of it. He, along with linemates Oscar Lindberg and Stefan Matteau (another last-minute call-up), didn’t get much ice time and failed to generate much offense.
Individually, though, Hyka looked solid. He didn’t score any goals or pick up any helpers, but the 24-year-old did manage to create a couple chances and drive play into the offensive zone.
It’s unknown how long Hyka will remain on Vegas’ roster, but his debut certainly wasn’t a bad one.
3. Despite the loss, Marc-Andre Fleury was great
The Ducks only got 20 shots on net and Fleury let two of them past him, but he also had no chance on either of Anaheim’s tallies. The Ducks’ first goal came off the stick of Jakob Silfverberg after he deflected an Andrew Cogliano shot past Fleury to open the scoring. Similarly, Josh Manson’s third period tally was another redirection from close range.
It’s sometimes difficult to stay on your game when faced with such a small amount of shots, but Fleury did just that. Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on his (or Vegas’) side.
4. Vegas’ third period effort was encouraging
The Golden Knights obviously weren’t able to get on the board in the third period, but that’s not due to a lack of effort. Vegas challenged Ryan Miller (who had filled in for John Gibson after leaving the game in the second intermission) constantly in the game’s final 20 minutes, but Miller simply wouldn’t let anything past him. The Golden Knights’ 20 shots in the third period was a welcome sight, especially considering how sluggish Vegas looked after 40 minutes.
5. Tampa Bay Lightning in position to reclaim spot atop league standings
Vegas has spent the last 48 hours or so at the top of the league standings, but their loss to Anaheim opens the door for Tampa Bay to get back to the No. 1 spot. Surely the Presidents’ Trophy isn’t Vegas primary focus, but an expansion team finishing the season as the top team in the league during its inaugural campaign would be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Who wouldn’t want to see that?