The Vegas Golden Knights got off to a slow start against the Detroit Red Wings Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena and were never able to fully establish their game, eventually suffering a 3-2 loss in overtime.
A costly turnover by Reilly Smith was the ultimate turning point in the game as it led to Detroit’s game-winning goal off the stick of Anthony Mantha just 19 seconds into overtime.
Goals were few and far between tonight, but it took just over three minutes for Detroit to take a 1-0 lead in the first period courtesy of Luke Glendening, who ended a 17-game goalless streak.
Vegas did not record a shot on goal until seven minutes in when Mark Stone had a great scoring chance but was denied by Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard.
Mark Stone with a golden opportunity. pic.twitter.com/3raeUDRH4z— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) March 24, 2019
That would prove to be a theme for the rest of the first period as the Knights generated momentum but were unable to beat Howard. It wasn’t until the second period that Vegas’ game came alive as Cody Eakin finally got Vegas on the scoreboard 14:43 into the middle frame. It was Eakin’s 20th goal of the season, which set a new career high.
GOAL. Cody Eakin scores to make it a 1-1 game. pic.twitter.com/0TsIOBwPQx— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) March 24, 2019
Things were looking optimistic for Vegas when Smith, playing in the 500th game of his career, gave the Knights a 2-1 lead on a short-handed breakaway goal 10:12 into the third period.
GOAL. Reilly Smith just can't stop scoring goals. He gives Vegas the 2-1 lead with a shorty. pic.twitter.com/Anuouo9yTe— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) March 24, 2019
For the second game in a row, Smith’s patience with the puck paid off as he scored on a forehand-backhand move that he sent top-shelf. The goal was his 18th of the season and fourth in the last three games.
However, the 2-1 lead wouldn’t last long.
Just 65 seconds later, Mantha made up for his turnover that led to Smith’s goal by answering with a goal of his own, knotting things up at 2-2 at 11:17 of the third. His equalizer came on the same power play that yielded the short-handed strike, and it quickly erased the momentum Vegas had been building.
The game required extra time, but there wasn’t even enough time to say “overtime” before Mantha scored his second goal of the evening.
In an ironic twist of role reversal, this one came courtesy of a turnover by Smith, as his no-look backhand pass was intercepted by Dylan Larkin, who recovered the puck and sent a backhand feed to the wide-open Mantha. Mantha potted his second goal of the game, lifting the Red Wings to a 3-2 victory just 19 seconds into overtime.
GOAL. Mantha scores 19 seconds into overtime. Knights drop this one 3-2. pic.twitter.com/kFTYBvoTdS— Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) March 24, 2019
The loss snapped Vegas’ four-game winning streak, but despite a slow start, the Knights remained in the game until the end.
Part of that was thanks to the play of Malcolm Subban, who made 27 saves on 30 shots for a .900 save percentage. In fairness to Subban, who started his fourth straight game, he had no chance on any of Detroit’s goals, and he was still able to extend Vegas’ point streak to five games.
Considering Vegas’ inconsistent and, at times, uninspired effort throughout the game, the Knights were fortunate to come away with a point.
Head coach Gerard Gallant expressed that sentiment in his post-game press conference.
“I didn’t think we played horrible, but I didn’t think we had the energy or the jump at all, and Detroit played fast,” he said. “They played a real good, hard game and they played fast, so they probably deserved the two points tonight. I’m glad we got the one, but they played a good, hard game.”
There were stretches in the game in which Vegas was flat, and the Knights didn’t look like the playoff-ready team that has been dominant in recent games against difficult opponents like San Jose and Winnipeg.
The Knights did manage a Corsi For percentage of 65.52 in the third period, but it took a while to get there, as evidenced in the Corsi chart below.
Also, Gallant had to shuffle his lines more than usual (the only line that remained intact was the top-line trio of Smith, William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault, who combined for one goal and five shots). Part of that may have had to do with the fact that William Carrier, Valentin Zykov and Nick Holden saw their first game in action in quite a while, though.
Carrier was the most noticeable of the three as he picked up right where he left off, recording 11 hits in 11:10 of ice time. The Knights were also without Max Pacioretty, who remains day-to-day after suffering a knee injury the other night against the Jets.
Though it certainly wasn’t the Knights’ best effort, they managed to hold their own. The Knights matched the Red Wings shot for shot at 30 apiece, and, in large part thanks to Carrier, out-hit Detroit 38-23. The Knights also played a disciplined game, taking just two minor penalties.
Plus, though the Red Wings may not be a playoff team, Detroit put up a hard-fought battle in a game in which Vegas was heavily favored.
“We played against a team that was hungry, and they played hard,” Gallant said after the game. “We’ve been pretty good the last 10 or 11, so sometimes that happens, but like I said, we can be better. But you [have to] give [the Red Wings] some credit; they came in here and played a competitive game.”
The Knights are now 10-1-1 since the trade deadline but, thanks to securing one point in tonight’s game, still hold an 11-point lead over the Coyotes, who came up short in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Devils earlier in the day. That being said, the Knights’ hopes of clinching a playoff berth will be put on hold, at least temporarily.
Depending on what happens with Arizona tomorrow, however, the Knights could have a chance to take matters into their own hands when they head to St. Louis to take on the Blues Monday night.