Mark Stone and Reilly Smith scored for the Golden Knights, and Stone and Max Pacioretty both got into fights during this game, leaving Stone just an assist short of the Gordie Howe hat trick.
A difficult second period put this game out of reach for the Knights, though it certainly wasn’t Vegas’ best all-around effort.
Despite giving up the first goal on a deflection by Kyle Turris just over two minutes into the game, Vegas had an excellent first period, coming away with a 25-15 Corsi advantage and 17-7 shot lead. Vegas would control even-strength play throughout the game, but that first frame was truly dominant, even if Vegas was only able to build a one-goal lead.
Stone knotted things up at 1-1 when he scored on the power play nearly 10 minutes into the game. Cody Glass set him up with an excellent blind pass when Stone was on the doorstep.
Smith then scored at even strength when a rebound found its way to him as he rushed in as part of the second wave.
But the Golden Knights lost the lead less than a minute into the second period, and they never got it back.
Costly mistakes, including Deryk Engelland and Nicolas Hague losing track of the puck on the tying goal, Calle Jarnkrok not being covered and getting a clean snipe to give Nashville the lead, and Marc-Andre Fleury turning the puck over to Filip Forsberg to make it 4-2 hurt the team in the middle frame, and Vegas wasn’t able to recover.
Nick Bonino tipped a Turris shot into the net on the Predators’ second power play of the third period to effectively end the game.
Fleury wasn’t his usual self; this was his third straight start, and he’s played in every game so far this season, which may be getting to him. Besides the costly turnover, Fleury stopped just 34 of 39 shots, good for an .872 save percentage.
It’s not like Vegas didn’t have its fair share of chances, it’s that the Knights couldn’t convert on them.
Smith remains red-hot — he had 19 goals last season and has five through the first seven games this year — but his linemates are currently unable to score. When Smith set up Jonathan Marchessault for a prime chance, Marchessault put the puck wide. That may have been a big momentum swing for Vegas.
The Golden Knights had an odd game in terms of individual performances. Gerard Gallant tried mixing up the lines in the third period but didn’t get much success from the experimentation. He put Stone with Smith and William Karlsson, Marchessault with Glass and Pacioretty, and Paul Stastny with Tomas Nosek and Valentin Zykov. It’ll be interesting to see if these lines ever reappear, or if it was Gallant looking for a quick shake-up.
The Predators also figured out how to control the Golden Knights’ excellent power play, and while Vegas got two chances in the second period, neither resulted in a shot on goal, let alone a puck going in the net. The Golden Knights’ near-perfect penalty kill also allowed a goal in this game.
Vegas simply wasn’t able to get enough high-danger chances (just eight in this game, all at even strength), and the shot locations against an excellent Nashville defense were limited after the high-flying first period.
The Knights weren’t able to contain Nashville’s offense either, and while the first pairing did well against the Matt Duchene line (Shea Theodore had a 70.59 percent Corsi and 71.43 percent shot share at even strength, and Brayden McNabb had a 60 percent Corsi and 65.22 percent shot share), too many shots were allowed on both the power play and at even strength to save the game.
Vegas took 20 minutes of penalties throughout this game, and while Pacioretty and Stone’s fights account for 10 of them, McNabb taking two penalties didn’t help, especially when he’s arguably Vegas’ most important penalty-killing defenseman.
The Golden Knights will aim for a much better effort when they face the Ottawa Senators Thursday night.