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Kings 5, Golden Knights 2: Brutal first period dooms Vegas in second straight loss

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A resurgence in the second period couldn’t get it done.

Los Angeles Kings v Vegas Golden Knights
Alec Martinez and the Los Angeles Kings celebrate after a first period goal against the Vegas Golden Knights
Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

The Vegas Golden Knights lost 5-2 to the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena. A four-goal first period for the Kings against Malcolm Subban and the Knights buried the team, although they attempted a comeback in the second and third periods.

In fact, the Knights outshot the Kings 35-5 in the second and third periods combined but were unable to dig their way out of the hole.

Alec Martinez, Ben Hutton, Tyler Toffoli and Adrian Kempe all scored for the Kings late in the first period in the span of just over six minutes.

The Kings had an advantage in possession in the first period, with a 29-17 Corsi lead and 18-10 shot total. That advantage disappeared over the next two periods, but the Knights allowed the Kings to take control early on, and that pushed the game too far out of Vegas’ reach.

Puck possession flow chart
Natural Stat Trick

In the first period, all but three of the Golden Knights were on the ice for goals against, so the blame can’t be solely placed upon one pairing, one line or one player. Chandler Stephenson, Reilly Smith and William Karlsson, the makeshift first line in the absence of Jonathan Marchessault, were the only ones to not allow a goal throughout the game.

However, almost all Knights skaters had positive possession stats at the end of the night (aside from Nicolas Roy and Ryan Reaves, who had a 38.46 percent Corsi at even strength and -27.88 percent relative to the team).

Individual shot share

Max Pacioretty and Smith both scored for Vegas in the second period as the Knights attempted yet another (unsuccessful) rally. Vegas took control of the game in the middle frame, and the Knights did not lose that control for the rest of the game. In the second period, Vegas seized a 35-11 Corsi lead during a 24-3 shot clinic. However, Jack Campbell was the difference in this game and only let two shots get behind him.

The first came off the stick of Smith, who scored on his own rebound after three chances in the offensive zone.

The goal extended a three-game streak for Smith, and he is now just one goal shy of his total from last season (19).

Pacioretty also continued his hot streak as he now has 10 goals in his last 15 games as well as goals in back-to-back contests.

His goal was the result of an excellent bit of passing by the reconstituted second line of Mark Stone, Paul Stastny and Pacioretty, who combined for the full-line strike.

The two goals came 56 seconds apart, and it appeared as though the Knights were on to something.

However, despite a valiant effort, Vegas was unable to cut the deficit further and ultimately lost 5-2 after Kempe scored his second of the night in the final 10 seconds of the game.

This is the Golden Knights’ fifth straight game giving up the first goal and third straight game going down 2-0. It’s also the team’s second consecutive loss after a 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

“Same old story, isn’t it?” Gerard Gallant said after the game. “No excuses. We can’t not be ready. We’re down three, four to nothing again. The first period was awful. It’s embarrassing.”

The players and coach didn’t blame any particular member of the team; instead, blame was distributed to everyone.

But the Golden Knights didn’t play horrendously. They allowed just five high-danger chances against at even strength and took just one penalty towards the end of the game, playing disciplined hockey throughout. They allowed just 1.63 expected goals against.

For whatever reason, Vegas hasn’t been able to put up that kind of effort early on in the last few games, and it is becoming a problem for a team that was on a hot streak just a few days ago.

It didn’t help that it was Subban’s first start in over a week (his first of the new decade), as he has not been great in those situations. He improved as the game wore on but only made 18 saves on 23 shots. His save percentage since Dec. 1 has fallen to just .887, although Subban has had just three truly bad games (below .900) this season.

Campbell, on the other hand, stopped 44 of 46 shots for Los Angeles, finishing the game with a .957 save percentage. He stopped 1.23 goals above expectation and made 11 saves on 12 high-danger shots against. Running into the hot goaltender happens, and nobody has been hotter in Vegas than Campbell.

The Golden Knights have now allowed four goals in four straight games, the longest streak in franchise history. The Knights move to 4-2-0 on their current homestand.

Vegas will next host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday before starting an eight-game East Coast road trip.

Needless to say, scoring the first goal will be a priority.