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Year 2, Game 76: Golden Knights suffer 3-1 loss to Blues, fail to clinch playoff berth

William Karlsson scored the lone goal for Vegas in a tight game.

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at St. Louis Blues Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden Knights entered tonight’s game against the Blues needing just one point to clinch a playoff berth for the second year in a row.

While that point was there for the taking, Vegas will have to wait at least another game to solidify its place in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs after coming up short in a 3-1 loss Monday night in St. Louis.

It was a very tightly-checked contest with a playoff feel, so neither team had much room with which to work. That led to limited scoring and limited shots, and the first goal didn’t come until nearly 19 minutes into the opening frame.

The Blues capitalized on an ill-advised pass by Malcolm Subban, who gave the puck away behind the net. Zach Sanford intercepted Subban’s pass in the trapezoid and fed it to Ivan Barbashev, who beat Subban short-side to give St. Louis the 1-0 lead at 18:41 of the first.

It took almost another entire period for Vegas to get on the board, but William Karlsson was able to get one past Jordan Binnington with just two seconds remaining on a Vegas power play at 15:12 of the middle frame.

Karlsson cleaned up a rebound on a point shot by Colin Miller, who was back in the lineup in place of the injured Shea Theodore. Karlsson’s 23rd of the season evened up the game at 1-1.

However, Ryan O’Reilly put St. Louis back on top just over three minutes later when he beat Subban cleanly with under two minutes left in the second period.

The Blues’ fourth line scored its second goal of the game 6:27 into the third period on a fluky play that saw a centering feed from Robert Bortuzzo pinball off Subban and then off the body of the sliding Sanford and into the net.

The goal came just minutes after Vegas had a few particularly strong scoring opportunities, but Binnington would not oblige.

Vegas pulled Subban with 1:13 left in the third, electing to put six forwards on the ice for a much-needed goal, but it did not come. With the 3-1 win, St. Louis completed the sweep of the season series against Vegas.

The Knights have now gone 0-1-1 in their last two games, losing back-to-back games for the first time in over a month.

But tonight’s loss wasn’t a result of poor play or a lack of effort.

Vegas controlled possession for most of the game, finishing the tilt with a 60.67 Corsi For percentage and a High-Danger CF% of 58.82. As the Corsi chart below demonstrates, the Knights continued to improve as the game wore on.

Binnington, who has taken the league by storm as he has played a huge role in the Blues’ resurgence, was at the top of his game all night. He finished the contest with 24 saves and a .960 save percentage.

The Blues were able to take advantage of a few Vegas mistakes, and that was the ultimate difference in the game.

Unlike the other night against Detroit, Gerard Gallant was not forced to shuffle the lines in tonight’s loss. In fact, it was an encouraging performance for the new-look second line featuring Alex Tuch, as the three skaters (Tuch, Paul Stastny and Mark Stone) finished with CF percentages of 74.19, 70.97 and 76.92, respectively.

Though tonight’s loss was a wasted opportunity to gain ground on the Sharks in the Pacific Division standings, it’s not a concerning setback for a team that continues to play well and compete night after night.

Next up for Vegas is a matchup against the Avalanche Wednesday night in Colorado. Colorado is fighting for a playoff spot and has been particularly stingy in recent games, so it will be another tough test for Subban and the Knights. A back-to-back set against Minnesota and San Jose this weekend could go a long way towards determining Vegas’ final position in the standings.