The Knights (31-23-4) played well, but they didn’t put forth a 60-minute effort and couldn’t outplay luck in this game. After two periods of dominance by Vegas, the Knights and Coyotes were tied at 2-2, but the game unraveled in the third. A combination of careless play and several unfortunate bounces ultimately resulted in three third-period goals for Arizona, which was the difference in the game.
Through the first two periods, the Golden Knights outshot the Coyotes 30-15 at 5-on-5 and had 11 high-danger chances to Arizona’s three. That wouldn’t last, though, as the Knights followed that up with just eight shots and one high-danger chance in the final 20 minutes (although they outshot Arizona 8-6).
When the Golden Knights’ possession chart looks like this and they still lose, it would appear that there’s more going against them than for them.
That started with a stellar opening frame by Coyotes netminder Darcy Kuemper, who made 16 saves in the first period and kept the game scoreless despite Vegas holding a 16-6 edge in shots. Kuemper finished the game with 41 stops on 43 shots for a .953 save percentage, so he certainly played a role in the final score.
Another factor that played a role throughout the game was luck, which was particularly harsh to the Knights in the second and third periods.
In the second, Vegas hit iron multiple times, including on a penalty shot where Reilly Smith had the goaltender fooled but not the post.
Reilly Smith had Kuemper beat, but he hit the post. pic.twitter.com/2WzW68xSKK— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 13, 2019
Soon after this, Brayden McNabb got a shot behind Kuemper but it hit the crossbar.
Despite those near misses, the second period featured four goals, starting with a Jordan Oesterle power-play goal 9:38 into the frame. Oesterle was left wide open with a gaping net to shoot at, and he made no mistake.
GOAL. Arizona scores on the man advantage to get the 1-0 lead. Gorgeous cross-ice pass from Derek Stepan. pic.twitter.com/BH35apaV5S— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 13, 2019
Alex Galchenyuk would double Arizona’s lead a little more than four minutes later with a favorable bounce off the posts, yet another example of luck haunting the Knights throughout this game.
Vegas would rally with goals from Brandon Pirri and Nate Schmidt, who tied the game with 30 seconds left in the period.
GOAL. Nate Schmidt ties it with just 29.7 remaining in the middle period. pic.twitter.com/C9bdWVKN37— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 13, 2019
Max Pacioretty made an excellent pass on the play, sending a cross-ice feed through multiple Coyotes skaters to Schmidt, who picked up his 100th career point on his career-high sixth goal of the season.
But that wouldn’t be enough, as Schmidt’s tally was Vegas’ last.
Arizona scored three unanswered goals in the third, which was a period to forget for the Golden Knights.
First, Nick Cousins capitalized on a turnover and was the beneficiary of another favorable bounce as he netted his first goal in 13 games. But Josh Archibald‘s goal, which put the game out of reach with 2:12 remaining in the frame, was a microcosm of Vegas’ night.
GOAL. Nate Schmidt does a great job blocking the pass, but the puck deflects back to Josh Archibald, who makes it 4-2. pic.twitter.com/eMRFQf7chK— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) February 13, 2019
It should have been an excellent game-saving play by Schmidt, who did in fact block the pass, but the puck still found its way right back to Archibald’s stick, and he lifted it over Fleury.
It was a great shot by Archibald and a stellar defensive play by Schmidt, who used his body to effectively cut off the passing lane. But between this and the posts in the second, tonight’s game for the Knights was a return to the old adage — it’s better to be lucky than good.
Richard Panik sealed the win for Arizona with an empty-net tally in the final minute of play, making it the first time this season that the Knights gave up three goals in the third period on home ice.
There were some positives to take away from the loss, as the Golden Knights were the better team for the first 40 minutes.
Schmidt and McNabb, the Golden Knights’ top defensive pairing, drove play quite well. Schmidt managed a 22-6 Corsi differential (just one shot against), and McNabb finished with a differential of 18-6 at 5-on-5. McNabb also led the team in individual Corsi through the first 40.
Both the first and second lines got excellent chances through the first two periods, with the first line having a 72.7 percent shot share and the second topping that at 80 percent. Neither line allowed a high-danger chance against.
Plus, it was encouraging to see Pirri end a six-game goal drought, and a good sign to see the third line clicking again as both Cody Eakin and Oscar Lindberg played a role to get Vegas on the board.
Unfortunately, things changed in the third. The first line generated just two shots and the second line gave up the game-winning goal. Though the top line of Smith, William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault has been much better in recent games, the trio was held off the scoresheet, which is a concern as the Knights enter the final push of the season.
The offense also didn’t show up in the third, and the Knights made several costly mistakes.
The Coyotes made the most of their opportunities, and though the Knights did have a fair number of bad breaks, Vegas dropped the ball in this one. This is especially true since the Flames lost again tonight.
The Knights are now 2-4-0 since the All-Star break and have lost four straight on home ice.
Vegas will look to rebound Thursday night against the visiting Maple Leafs.