Alright. Where do we start?
How many more times can we say the Vegas Golden Knights blew a lead in the third period? What other ways can we describe losing to teams that they should’ve beaten? What more can be said that hasn’t been said for the past eight games?
Forget point streaks, forget pity points in overtime, and dismiss any sort of silver lining you hope to find.
The Golden Knights have lost for the sixth time in eight games. This sixth loss might be the worst of the bunch.
This is a play that happened in a tie game with less than a minute to go in regulation.
That was Anthony Mantha taking a cross-ice pass from Robby Fabbri. That’s Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb trying to play hero. That’s Mantha walking in on Malcolm Subban on a breakaway, going topshelf and beating Subban.
The Golden Knights lost on this play; a 3-2 defeat against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena on Sunday. Mantha’s goal gave the lowly Red Wings, the team with the worst record and fewest points in the NHL (Detroit had a game in hand over Los Angeles) their second consecutive victory.
This was the play that brought the Golden Knights to a 9-7-3 record. This was the play that put a capper on a God-awful road trip at 1-2-1. This was the play that resulted in the fourth time since Halloween that the Golden Knights have blown a lead in the third period.
I mean, what more can you do?
Sometimes, the world needs to be reminded that the Golden Knights are still 19 games into this season. Maybe this is that reminder. Maybe the stretch since Oct. 25, when the Golden Knights lost 6-1 on Nevada Day to the Colorado Avalanche, should be the wake-up call that this is a long season. There’s still plenty of time for good fortune to bounce the Golden Knights’ way.
But this loss was an unmitigated disaster. These losses have been collective bouts of calamity in a stretch where the Golden Knights can’t find an immediate fix. Shuffling lineups, shuffling defense pairs, not getting enough production outside of anybody not named Max Pacioretty. You name it, it’s likely happened.
Speaking of Pacioretty, he remains the best Golden Knights skater to this point. He scored his fourth goal in five games at 9:04 of the second period to give Vegas a 2-1 lead. The assists on that goal came from fourth liners Nicolas Roy and Ryan Reaves. Pacioretty’s linemates haven’t scored in about a week and a half; Paul Stastny has not scored in six games, while Mark Stone hasn’t scored in his past four.
If you’re a fan of a ton of shots in hockey games, this was not the contest for you. Nineteen — that’s a 19 — combined shots through two periods were had. There were a grand total of five shots for both teams in the second period. Pacioretty’s goal was, no exaggeration, the first shot of the period for Vegas.
By those counts alone, this was a game set up for Vegas to succeed. It’s hard to do anything wrong when the other team, quite literally, cannot get a shot off. That would change in the third period. There were 19 shots combined in the third period. Detroit had 10, and scored on two of them.
The first came from Madison Bowey at 10:57 of the third period to tie it 2-2.
Bowey gets tripped by William Carrier, so this would have resulted in a Detroit power play had Subban made the save. It looks like Subban was expecting the puck to go 5-hole, but Bowey instead get it on the outreach of Subban’s pad.
Subban made his third start in eight days, making 16 saves against the lowest-scoring team in the NHL; the Red Wings entered this contest averaging 2.17 goals for per game. We talked after the Toronto game about how Subban needed to get better help from his teammates to get him a victory. On this night, it wasn’t in Subban’s favor. He should’ve made the stop on Bowey’s goal, and he should’ve stopped Andreas Athanasiou’s power-play goal at 19:15 of the first period that tied it 1-1.
The Golden Knights mustered only 19 shots on goal themselves, with Jonathan Bernier making 17 saves. It was the first time this season Vegas had fewer than 20 shots on goal, and what a time it comes on; on the SEGABABA after getting blitzed by the Washington Capitals less than 24 hours before. It’s one thing to lose as much as Vegas has the past two weeks, albeit in overtime. It’s another to come out unprepared one night, and then follow it with a lackluster performance against a standings bottomfeeder the next.
This is a team that’s supposed to contend for a Stanley Cup this year. There’s plenty of time. But right now, this isn’t it, chief.
By the way, Jonathan Marchessault scored at 16:27 of the first period for his fourth goal of the season. It was also his second at even strength. Progress! Reilly Smith had the assist, giving him 15 points this season.
It’s going to be a long couple of days for the Golden Knights before they return back to action at home against the Chicago Blackhawks. It’s another game against another team that Vegas should beat.
Right now, nothing is a sure thing.