Tuesday night’s 5-4 shootout win in Vancouver was certainly an adventure, as the Knights blew a 4-1 third-period lead before winning the game on a Shea Theodore goal in the fourth round of the shootout.
With Jonathan Marchessault, Erik Haula, David Perron and Reilly Smith out of the lineup, Vegas had some fresh blood on the ice, including Brandon Pirri, who scored two goals on seven shots in his Golden Knights debut. William Karlsson had yet another strong game, scoring a goal and two assists to take the team lead in points with 78. Marchessault and Perron did not make the trip with the Knights and therefore will be out again tonight.
The Oilers (34-40-6-74), losers of four straight, have been eliminated from playoff contention but will look to end a disappointing season on a high note in front of their home fans.
Despite Edmonton’s down year, Connor McDavid currently leads the league in scoring with 103 points, his second straight 100-point campaign. It appears as though he will have linemate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins back in the lineup tonight after missing the last two games; Nugent-Hopkins has two goals in two contests against Vegas this season.
Here’s what to watch for in tonight’s tilt against the Oilers.
The 2017-2018 season has been extremely disappointing for the Oilers, who were preseason favorites to win the Pacific Division after last year’s promising playoff run. Instead, the Oilers have regressed considerably and will be in the Draft Lottery sweepstakes yet again.
However, the Oilers players want to help McDavid win the scoring title and claim his second straight Art Ross Trophy. McDavid sits five points ahead of Nikita Kucherov (98) in the scoring race and, barring any wild late-season heroics of the Jamie Benn variety, should do just that.
McDavid was on quite a tear recently, recording seven goals and 14 points in a six-game point streak. However, he has been held without a point in back-to-back games. The 21-year-old phenom has game-changing speed and already has two goals and five points in three games against the Knights this season, so containing him will be one of Vegas’ top priorities. However, as we’ve seen before, that’s easier said than done.
Vegas has two games remaining in the regular season, and while the Knights are locked in as the first seed in the Pacific Division, there’s still a tiny chance they could win the Western Conference. However, that would require Nashville to fall apart and lose out, so don’t hold your breath.
The Predators currently have a four-point lead over the Knights in the standings. If Nashville loses its final two games of the season and the Knights win their final two, Vegas would finish first in the conference. In that scenario, both teams would have 113 points, but Vegas would own the first tiebreaker, known as ROW (regulation or overtime wins); Vegas already has 47 regulation or overtime wins compared to Nashville’s 45.
It’s possible Nashville could lose the next two games, especially considering the Predators’ final game of the season is against the Columbus Blue Jackets, who will still have everything to play for in the tight Eastern Conference standings. However, Nashville is in Washington tonight; the Capitals have nothing to play for, and there’s a good chance Alex Ovechkin will be held out of the game after an ugly spill into the boards Monday night. So again, don’t hold your breath.
At this point, though, the only thing Vegas would be playing for is home-ice advantage in the Conference Finals against Nashville or Winnipeg. Since there’s no such thing as an easy playoff series in today’s NHL, there’s no point in looking that far ahead. The most important thing the Knights can do right now is rest players who are nursing injuries and make sure everyone is as healthy as possible heading into the postseason.
The Will of Wild Bill
The only other thing of note in these final two games for the Knights is the fact that Karlsson remains in the running for the Rocket Richard Trophy with 43 goals. He trails only Ovechkin (46) and Patrik Laine (44), though it’s possible the Knights will rest him tonight or Saturday since he hasn’t missed a game all year. The only other player on the Knights roster who has been in the lineup for all 80 games is defenseman Colin Miller.
How to Watch
Time: 6 p.m. PT
TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, NHL.TV
Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM