Despite outshooting Nashville 48-27, the Golden Knights came up short in a 2-1 loss to the Predators Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena.
The Knights went 0-for-5 on the power play and ran into a red-hot Juuse Saros, who stood on his head all night with a career-high 47-save performance.
Vegas may have controlled the game for most of the night, coming away with a Corsi For percentage of 58.33, but Nashville made the most of its opportunities, and Saros took care of the rest.
For the second game in a row, Vegas got on the board first.
Max Pacioretty gave the Knights a 1-0 lead just over eight minutes into the opening frame, finding twine for the third straight game. Alex Tuch and Paul Stastny both extended their point streaks as they picked up assists on the play.
GOAL. The USA line connects to give Vegas the 1-0 lead. Pacioretty slams it home. pic.twitter.com/zodTvK4tQ5— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) January 24, 2019
The 1-0 lead would hold up through the first period thanks to the play of netminder Marc-Andre Fleury as well as continued offensive pressure from the Knights. Vegas held an 18-13 lead in shots on goal after 20 minutes, but that would be a theme throughout the night.
That same pressure should have continued in the second as Vegas again led in shots 16-12. However, when the Predators did have the puck, they made it count.
That’s because for the second game in a row, the Knights gave up two goals in the second period.
The Predators tied things up just under a minute into the middle frame as the puck bounced off Ryan Johansen and into the net.
GOAL. Preds tie it just 52 seconds into the middle period. Fleury made the initial stop, but Johansen was there to get it past the goal line. pic.twitter.com/Tg8ngIPuQV— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) January 24, 2019
Just over three minutes later, Nick Bonino scored what ended up being the game-winning goal as the puck conveniently found him in the slot in front of a wide-open cage.
GOAL. Nick Bonino scores a goofy goal and the Preds take the 2-1 lead. pic.twitter.com/hBMFpIaofF— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) January 24, 2019
Both goals were somewhat fluky, but good things happen when you go to the net.
To their credit, the Knights tried to do the same, but Saros was up to the task.
Juuse Saros just robbed William Karlsson. Phenomenal save. pic.twitter.com/swWZwV54Rc— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) January 24, 2019
Vegas continued to generate chances, and Saros continued to put up a wall.
Saros stops Marchessault from point-blank range. pic.twitter.com/9GnKk7DWIi— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) January 24, 2019
But Saros wasn’t the only one making jaw-dropping saves. Nate Schmidt decided to join in on the fun.
With just under three minutes remaining in the third period, it appeared as though Viktor Arvidsson was about to put the game out of reach as he out-waited Fleury and had a wide-open net right in front of him.
But Schmidt came up with a clutch save on the goal line to keep the Knights within one.
My god, Nate Schmidt just made the save of the game. pic.twitter.com/KMVtND1eht— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) January 24, 2019
It technically didn’t even count as a shot on goal since Fleury didn’t make the save, but it was a game-saving stop nonetheless.
Here's the overhead view. pic.twitter.com/qz0H0GhbVp— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) January 24, 2019
Even Colin Miller made a diving play to preserve Vegas’ chances of tying things up.
But while Vegas gave it everything it had, not only firing 14 shots on goal in the third period but holding Nashville to just two AND finishing the frame with a 70.59 CF%, the Knights were unable to solve Saros.
The loss is the second straight for Vegas on home ice, and losing three out of four is not the way the Knights wanted to head into the All-Star break and bye week. The outcome doesn’t put the Knights in danger with regard to playoff positioning, but every pair of points is crucial with 30 games remaining.
At the end of the day, Saros is a huge reason why this game turned out the way it did. But Vegas’ inability to convert on the man advantage, including going 0-for-3 in the third period, was a glaring factor in the loss, and it continues to be a glaring hole in Vegas’ game.
The Knights have gone 3-for-42 in the last 13 games and 2-for-34 in January. Something’s gotta give.
That being said, the effort from throughout the Knights’ lineup was encouraging. The second line continues to build chemistry, and both Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson had grade-A scoring chances as they continue to heat up.
Also, it was a particularly strong game for the fourth line, as Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Tomas Nosek and Ryan Reaves combined for a 57.69 CF% and generated 10 scoring chances, more than any other line. Plus, seven of those were high-danger chances, which accounts for their 77.78 HDCF%.
Speaking of the fourth line, one of the more memorable plays of the game actually took place between the whistles in an altercation between P.K. Subban and Bellemare in the second period.
Here's what started the skirmish. Bellemare and Subban get together and it appears Bellemare somehow injured Subban's finger. pic.twitter.com/gtcmZWdwqa— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) January 24, 2019
It’s unclear exactly what happened on the ice. Subban seems to plead with the referees that Bellemare bit his finger, while Bellemare’s reenactment on the bench implies that Subban put his hand in Bellemare’s mouth and pulled upwards.
Either way, since Vegas was unable to capitalize on the resulting power play, it ended up not having a significant effect on the outcome of the game, though it could be an interesting storyline between these two teams moving forward, especially since the Predators will be back in Vegas Feb. 16.
For now, the Knights are off until Feb. 1, when they will take on the Hurricanes in Carolina.
The Knights have come a long way from the start of the season as Vegas finds itself in third place in the Pacific Division with a 29-19-4 record.
But the break is coming at a perfect time since the Knights have lost four out of their last six games. Aside from Fleury, who will be participating in the All-Star Game festivities in San Jose, the rest of the team will be able to rest and recharge as Vegas prepares for the final stretch of the campaign.