It was the fourth straight game in which the Knights went down 3-0, but this time Vegas was unable to mount a comeback. In fact, the Knights were shut out for just the second time this season and the first time since Dec. 8, a 5-0 loss to the Rangers.
Unlike the last few games, the Blue Jackets’ goals didn’t come in spurts, as Columbus scored once in each period.
First, Emil Bemstrom converted on the man advantage late in the opening period to put Columbus up 1-0. The Blue Jackets had strong puck movement on the power play, and Bemstrom beat Marc-Andre Fleury on a one-time blast from the left circle.
Pierre-Luc DuBois made it 2-0 early in the second period when he tipped in a point shot by Scott Harrington. It looked like DuBois might have made minimal contact with Fleury, though it wasn’t enough to warrant a challenge.
The Blue Jackets were only credited with two shots in the second period, but Fleury made a key save to keep it a two-goal game heading into the final frame.
Less than a minute into the third period, Reilly Smith had Vegas’ best chance of the night, and it came at a critical moment in the game.
The goal horn and light actually went on, but the referee immediately waved it off as Smith’s shot hit the crossbar. That would have made it a one-goal game with almost a full period of hockey left.
Instead, Alexander Wennberg scored at 8:26 of the frame to give Columbus the commanding three-goal lead. Blue Jackets netminder Elvis Merzlikins shut the door for the rest of the game, posting his first career shutout with 27 saves.
At the other end of the ice, Fleury stopped 19 of 22 shots for an .864 save percentage; his struggles in net continue as he has now posted a combined 3.74 goals-against average and .860 save percentage in four starts in 2020.
Keegan Kolesar played 12:06 and recorded one shot (a great scoring chance) and two hits in his NHL debut, but he has since been sent down to the AHL.
Overall, it was a poor effort by the Golden Knights, which is not something one could say about the other night’s 5-2 loss to Los Angeles. The Knights had a terrible first period against the Kings but rebounded with dominant second- and third-period efforts. They were unable to beat Jack Campbell, but the chances were there.
Tonight, they weren’t.
Vegas held a 48-35 edge in Corsi, but they failed to get inside chances or generate much of anything. Also, they went long stretches without recording a shot on goal on several occasions.
The Knights went 0-for-3 on the power play; they have gone a combined 1-for-9 on the man advantage over their last four games.
Additionally, over the last two games, the Knights have not scored a goal outside of a 56-second stretch in which they scored twice in the second period against the Kings.
It’s clear that Jonathan Marchessault’s presence has been missed, but his absence doesn’t explain or justify the way Vegas has played.
Tonight caps off a disappointing end to what turned out to be a frustrating homestand, as the Knights started out with four straight wins and followed that up with three straight losses. In the end, the Knights come away with just eight points out of a possible 14. At a key moment in the season when the division standings are so tight, that’s not an acceptable outcome for a team believed to be a serious contender.
Tonight’s loss drops Vegas to third place in the Pacific Division with 54 points, as Calgary’s 4-3 win against Edmonton puts them in sole possession of first place.
While the five Pacific Division teams vying for playoff positioning are separated by just three points, the other four teams have at least one game in hand on Vegas.
Needless to say, the Knights are in great need of a bounce-back effort Tuesday night in Buffalo as they kick off a seven-game road trip that will take them through the bye week and All-Star break.