The Vegas Golden Knights lost their first game to the Chicago Blackhawks in franchise history on Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena. Despite holding a 2-0 lead in the first period, Vegas proceeded to give up five straight goals en route to a 5-3 defeat as the Knights’ pattern of blowing leads continued in the team’s fourth consecutive loss.
After the game, Gerard Gallant blamed the loss on defensive lapses, saying some players were caught sleeping. Vegas had trouble containing Chicago’s offense, and it was a wide-open contest for much of the game. However, this was a game where the Golden Knights played very well but just didn’t get the luck they needed. Take, for instance, perhaps the game’s defining moment.
After William Carrier and William Karlsson gave the Knights a 2-0 lead and Patrick Kane cut that lead in half in the opening frame, Alex Tuch scored in the second period to make it 3-1.
Or so everyone thought.
It was ruled a goal on the ice, but it turned out that Tuch’s shot hit both the crossbar and the left post, and the puck never crossed the goal line. It was a key momentum swing for the Blackhawks, and that’s where the momentum would stay for the rest of the game.
Off the bar *and* post. pic.twitter.com/MQQJ4pmzIL— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) November 14, 2019
Capitalizing on that momentum, Blackhawks defenseman Calvin de Haan scored about 18 seconds later to tie the game at 2-2. Forty-five seconds after that, Erik Gustafsson added to the damage with his first of the season, giving Chicago a 3-2 lead in a shocking turn of events. The lead proved to be insurmountable for the Golden Knights, as Chicago added two more goals in the third to take full control of the game.
The Knights did get another goal as Nate Schmidt scored late in the third, but by that point it was too little, too late.
Despite the final score, this was a game where Vegas played pretty well. They scored on their first power play of the night as a shot from Karlsson trickled in. They killed off their penalties, and they played well at 4-on-4. They even finished with a near-60 percent Corsi For percentage at 5-on-5.
The Knights’ power play got off to a great start as it generated four shots and two high-danger chances before Karlsson scored 58 seconds into the man advantage. Even though they failed to get on the board on a third-period opportunity, the Knights still moved the puck well in that two-minute session as well.
It was a wild game that actually featured two penalty shots, which is certainly a rarity in the NHL. Jonathan Marchessault was unable to convert on his second-period attempt, which would have been huge for Vegas since it was a 3-2 hockey game at that point. Zack Smith hit the post early in the first period on his attempt.
But Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford came up huge for Chicago, making 39 saves on 42 shots for a .929 save percentage. Marc-Andre Fleury was much less impressive in net for the Golden Knights with just an .808 save percentage (and heartbreak). Ultimately, that was the difference in this game, as Vegas, despite its best efforts, couldn’t get much past Crawford.
Perhaps no Golden Knight played as well as Shea Theodore, who had a 62.5 percent Corsi, 76.47 percent shot share and 70.41 percent expected goal share at even strength and also had four takeaways in the game. Though he allowed a goal on a two-on-one opportunity for Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat, Strome beat Fleury glove-side, which happened multiple times throughout the night. Theodore has been a Blackhawk killer throughout his Vegas tenure, and even though he failed to score tonight, that dominant play continued.
On the flip side, the line of Marchessault, Cody Eakin and Mark Stone did not work particularly well, with just a 41.18 percent Corsi, 40 percent shot share and 38.36 percent expected goal share. Part of that was simply Eakin’s ongoing struggles, but he left the game early in the third period with cramping anyway.
In the end, however well they may have played, the Golden Knights blew another lead, this time against a team they had never lost to. Also, Chicago hasn’t exactly gotten off to a great start to the season despite heating up in recent games. While Vegas dominated every possession stat at even strength and created good chances on the power play, it was the defense that gave up too many chances (14 high-danger chances against, to be exact), and Fleury wasn’t able to stop them all.
This game all goes back to that double post, with Tuch back for just his second full game of the season. A 3-1 lead is a different ballgame, but alas, it was not meant to be.
Next up for the Knights is a matchup against the Kings on Saturday. To say that game is important would be an understatement, even if it is just mid-November.