In five games against Minnesota in Vegas’ two-year existence, the Knights have picked up one shootout win and four regulation losses, the latest being just the second regulation loss for the Knights on home ice since Thanksgiving.
A breakdown in coverage late in the third period was the ultimate difference in the game as Charlie Coyle capitalized on a scramble in front of Vegas’ net that left him all alone in front of a yawning cage.
GOAL. Charlie Coyle gives Minnesota the lead. How 'bout this defensive breakdown, eh? pic.twitter.com/XIovnEKjXo— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) January 22, 2019
It’s unclear what several of the Knights were doing on this play, but Jared Spurgeon took advantage of Vegas’ mistakes with a perfect cross-ice feed to Coyle, who made no mistake.
However, it wasn’t the first time the Wild had exploited loose coverage around the net.
Both of Minnesota’s second-period tallies, which came from Marcus Foligno and Eric Staal just 73 seconds apart, were generated from behind the net and involved wide-open backdoor finishes.
There’s only so much Marc-Andre Fleury can do when players are left alone on the doorstep.
But Minnesota made a habit of getting chances around the net, as evidenced by the dark blue area in the heat map below.
That being said, the true turning point in the game came on Vegas’ failed 5-on-3 power play early in the third. It could have been a massive swing in Vegas’ favor; instead, it went the other way.
Even though neither team scored in the next 10 minutes of the period, it was a significant wasted opportunity by the Knights, and Minnesota built on the ensuing momentum. Vegas went nearly 12 minutes without a shot on goal, and the Wild eventually scored what turned out to be the game-winner with 5:31 left in the third period.
Mikko Koivu then sealed the win with his 200th career goal, giving Minnesota a 4-2 lead with an empty-net goal in the final 13 seconds of the game.
Though it was not the effort or result Vegas was looking for, there were a few bright spots for the Knights.
Alex Tuch opened the scoring with a power-play goal 3:37 into the opening frame, netting his career-high 16th goal of the season. It was also his first point against his former team.
GOAL. Alex Tuch has a new career high with 16 goals. From Marchessault on the power play. pic.twitter.com/fNRV7ma5vD— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) January 21, 2019
Jonathan Marchessault made the nice feed on the two-on-one, giving him four points in his last two games after he managed just two in the previous 10.
After the Wild scored two goals in quick succession to take a 2-1 lead in the middle of the second, Max Pacioretty knotted things up at 2-2 just over two minutes later with his second goal in two games. All three members of the All-American line were involved in the play, with Paul Stastny extending his point streak to four games with the primary assist.
That being said, all three finished near the bottom of the roster in Corsi For percentage (Stastny: 43.75, Pacioretty: 37.04, Tuch: 34.62), and all three finished the game with plus/minus ratings of minus-two.
On the plus side, Colin Miller recorded assists on both of Vegas’ goals, giving him four helpers in two games since returning to the lineup. Even though the Knights failed on the 5-on-3 opportunity, Vegas has now scored a power-play goal in back-to-back games since Miller’s return. Coincidence? Unlikely. But either way, it’s a refreshing turn of events after a recent stretch in which the Knights went 2-for-32.
Oh, and Fleury still did his thing even though Devan Dubnyk came away with 30 saves and the win.
The Knights are now 6-2-1 in January. Fortunately for Vegas (29-18-4), the Sharks (28-16-7) also lost in regulation tonight, suffering a 6-2 loss to the Florida Panthers. That means Vegas remains just one point behind San Jose in the standings.
The Knights next take on the Nashville Predators Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena. It will be Vegas’ final game before the All-Star break and bye week.
Hopefully Brandon Pirri won’t do this again: