Going into Wednesday night’s contest against Arizona, the Vegas Golden Knights had defeated the Coyotes four out of four times this season. That’s not necessarily surprising, considering the Coyotes are one of the worst teams, if not the worst team, in the NHL.
Surely the Golden Knights would have no issues extending their record to 5-0-0 against Arizona, right?
Coming off one of their biggest wins of the season, the Golden Knights fell to the lowly Coyotes 3-2 Wednesday night. With some better puck luck (the Golden Knights hit iron four times against Arizona), Vegas may have been able to beat their division rival. Unfortunately, though, they walked out of their home arena empty-handed.
Erik Haula and Alex Tuch scored the goals for Vegas while Kevin Connauton scored twice for Arizona, giving him the first two-goal game of his career. Richard Panik also got on the board, giving him 12 goals on the season.
Arizona opened the scoring 6:22 in when Connauton sent the remains of an Oliver Ekman-Larsson shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to give Arizona the lead.
The Golden Knights responded a little after the period’s midway point when Haula and James Neal teamed up to get Vegas on the board.
Late in the opening period, Panik scored off a dazzling backhander after rookie sensation Clayton Keller wreaked havoc in the Vegas end.
It wasn’t Fleury’s best game, but he made a few spectacular saves to keep Vegas within striking distance.
Late in the middle third, Tuch deflected a Jonathan Marchessault slapper past Antti Raanta, who had a fantastic game, to earn his 15th goal of the season.
Unfortunately, Arizona came right back less than a minute later to restore their lead. Once again, it was Connauton finding twine on a goal Fleury likely won’t be too happy with.
Vegas generated some nice scoring chances in the final period, but Raanta was phenomenal in net and shut down Vegas’ last-ditch effort to tie the game in the dying seconds of regulation.
It certainly would have been fun to see Vegas lay a five-game sweep on one of their division rivals, but you can’t win them all. At the end of the day, the Golden Knights just clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and Arizona’s in the running for the first pick in this summer’s draft.
That said, a pair of points against Arizona would have been awfully useful with the San Jose Sharks lurking just five points behind Vegas in the division standings. The Knights will take on that Sharks team this weekend in the second half of a back-to-back less than 24 hours after playing a surging St. Louis Blues team in T-Mobile Arena. Needless to say, that game could have major implications if Vegas can’t pull out a win against the Blues Friday night.