More significantly, however, the loss puts Vegas 10 points behind Calgary in the Pacific Division standings with just 12 games remaining in the regular season.
It was a rough start for the Knights, who found themselves trailing less than three minutes into the game when Andrew Mangiapane opened the scoring at 2:40. Calgary doubled its lead less than five minutes later before Brandon Pirri notched his 11th goal of the season nearly 15 minutes into the first.
But while Calgary eventually held a 3-1 lead through 20 minutes, the Knights came back with a vengeance in the second.
Reilly Smith got things started when he scored just 21 seconds into the period.
Mark Stone followed suit 59 seconds later with his second goal as a Golden Knight, tying things up in dramatic fashion just 80 seconds into the middle frame.
The goal helped Stone reach the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career.
Despite a brutal first period in which Calgary managed a 71.43 Corsi For percentage, it was a brand new game in the blink of an eye.
However, the turning point in the contest came late in the second when Mikael Backlund scored a power-play goal with 22 seconds left in the frame. The Knights challenged the play for goaltender interference, but the call on the ice was upheld.
Malcolm Subban was visibly upset with the result and even took a two-minute minor for unsportsmanlike conduct when he protested the call at the end of the period, but Calgary took the 4-3 lead into intermission and never looked back.
Backlund’s strike, his second goal of the game, turned out to be the game-winner as the Knights were unable to beat David Rittich in the final 20 minutes of action.
Matthew Tkachuk scored his second of the game 15:43 into the third period, and he sealed the win for the Flames when he completed his first career hat trick with an empty-net goal at 17:28.
The goals capped off a dominant performance by Calgary’s second line, which combined for five goals and 11 points on the night. But the only points of true consequence were the two Calgary took home by winning in regulation.
Those two points now give Calgary a commanding 10-point lead over the Knights in the Pacific Division standings, whereas a Vegas win would have narrowed the gap to a much more manageable six-point deficit. That’s a significant turn of events considering the Flames already have a game in hand.
Though Calgary now sits atop the division with 91 points, there’s still a chance these two teams will meet in the first round of the playoffs. Tonight’s loss reduces Vegas’ odds of getting home-ice advantage in that matchup, however.
That puts Vegas in a tough spot considering all four games of the season series between the Knights and Flames have gone to the home team, and Calgary has now scored 13 goals in two home games against the Knights this season.
But as the Knights demonstrated last year, anything can happen in the playoffs. Plus, the Knights have yet to even clinch a playoff berth, so it’s way too early to speculate about matchups and scenarios.
For now, with several weeks of regular-season hockey to go, the Knights need to focus on fine-tuning their game, which has been very strong of late.
In fact, tonight was Vegas’ first loss since acquiring Stone on Feb. 25, and he now has goals in back-to-back games and points in three straight.
But at the end of the day, it’s difficult to beat good teams when you don’t put forth a complete 60-minute effort, which is something the Knights failed to do in this one, as illustrated in the Corsi graph below.
Though the Knights had some strong stretches throughout the game, including the impressive comeback effort at the start of the second and a solid second period overall, Vegas did not have the lead at any point in the game.
Subban made some key saves but wasn’t at his best, finishing the night with an .853 save percentage after stopping 29 of 34 shots.
The Knights have four days off before a road matchup against the Stars on Friday. Vegas will look to get back in the win column in Dallas.