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Year 2, Game 62: Golden Knights deliver everything but the finish in thrilling 3-2 shootout loss to the Bruins

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David Backes scored the game-winner in the sixth round of the shootout.

NHL: Boston Bruins at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

In a wild back-and-forth contest that had the atmosphere of a playoff game, the Golden Knights came up just short in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena.

It was a valiant effort by Vegas, but the Bruins picked up their seventh straight win on a goal by David Backes in the sixth round of the shootout.

The see-saw matchup was not one for the faint of heart, for the end-to-end action saw both teams trading chances all night.

Jake DeBrusk kicked things off with a spinning dandy 11:17 into the first period, scoring for the fifth game in a row and giving the road team a 1-0 lead.

However, Reilly Smith got the monkey off his back when he tied it up in the final 96 seconds of the frame, making no mistake off a rare rebound from Jaroslav Halak.

It was Smith’s first goal in 13 games and first in 2019.

After a scoreless second period, the Bruins took an early 2-1 lead on a Brad Marchand one-timer from the slot. But Vegas came right back as Nate Schmidt scored just 27 seconds later with a highlight-reel goal of his own.

This was the first goal given up by Boston’s top line in more than 10 games, but Schmidt’s clutch response knotted things up at 2-2 less than two minutes into the third period.

Though neither team lit the lamp in the final 18 minutes of regulation, it wasn’t for lack of trying. In fact, both teams hit the post on back-to-back rushes.

William Karlsson beat Halak short-side but clanged it off the iron.

Then Marchand followed suit at the other end of the rink, but neither shot would go.

Both teams also came within inches of ending it in overtime.

Since there wasn’t already enough drama and excitement, a sloppy change by defensemen Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy led to a Bruins bench minor for too many men, resulting in a rare 4-on-3 overtime power play for Vegas. But Halak, who was outstanding all night, helped Boston kill it off, much like Vegas did to the Bruins’ red-hot man advantage three times in regulation.

Sixty-five minutes of action was not enough time for a winner to emerge, so a shootout ensued.

Keeping with the pattern of the game, the Bruins took a 1-0 lead in the shootout thanks to a DeBrusk shot that went off the post and in.

But naturally, Vegas responded immediately as Karlsson evened things up on the very next shot. Backes eventually scored the clincher after Marc-Andre Fleury and Halak stopped a combined eight attempts, handing Vegas a 3-2 overtime loss.

Much like last Saturday’s dominant performance against Nashville, the Knights played a very strong game, it just wasn’t the result Vegas was looking for.

Though this was their fifth loss in the last six games, the Knights picked up a well-deserved point in an impressive performance, demonstrating that despite recent results, they can still compete with the top teams in the league.

In fact, if not for Halak this game could have gone very differently. The Knights held a significant 15-5 edge in High-Danger Corsi For, finishing the contest with a HDCF percentage of 75, which is evident based on the dark red area around the crease in the heat map below.

Vegas was also particularly effective on the penalty kill, going 3-for-3 against the second-best power play in the NHL.

In fact, the Knights arguably had better chances on the Bruins’ power plays than Boston did, especially with two two-on-one rushes while short-handed in the second period.

It was also a strong bounce-back performance by Fleury, who gave up a season-high six goals in his last start before Malcolm Subban got the nod in consecutive games. Halak was tested a lot more than Fleury, but both netminders finished the game with save percentages above .925, and Fleury made some particularly key stops late in the third when it was all Boston leading up to overtime.

The Knights remain solidified in third place in the Pacific Division, trailing San Jose and Calgary by nine and 12 points, respectively; Vegas now has a 10-point lead over the Coyotes and Canucks, though both teams have two games in hand.

Next up for Vegas is a Friday night meeting with the Winnipeg Jets, who are coming off a 7-1 loss to the Avalanche.