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Hurricanes 6, Golden Knights 5: Vegas blows 3-1 lead in wild shootout loss to Carolina

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Vegas allowed four goals in the third period.

Carolina Hurricanes v Vegas Golden Knights
William Carrier of the Vegas Golden Knights skates during the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes in NHL action
Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images

The Vegas Golden Knights and Carolina Hurricanes played a chaotic, high-scoring game Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena that resulted in a 6-5 shootout victory for Carolina.

It was a disappointing result in Vegas’ first home game in nearly a month (and Pete DeBoer’s first home game as Vegas’ bench boss), especially since the Knights controlled much of the game and took a 3-1 lead into the third period.

To get that two-goal lead, Vegas opened the scoring in the first period as Max Pacioretty deflected a point shot into the net.

It was Pacioretty’s 24th of the season, putting him on pace for 32 goals this season, which is much more in line with the goal totals he saw in Montreal.

Jon Merrill followed suit with a backhand beauty just over a minute later, making it a 2-0 game. The Hurricanes scored a big goal on a seeing-eye shot from the blue line in the final 30 seconds of the frame to cut the deficit in half.

However, Shea Theodore quickly re-established that two-goal lead in the second period when he scored on the rush on a one-timer off a centering pass from Reilly Smith.

The goal came 59 seconds into the middle frame and was the only goal of the period.

The Golden Knights completely controlled the first two periods with 56.96 percent of the shot attempts and 77.74 percent of the expected goals through the first 40 minutes (all strengths). They did this despite not having any power-play opportunities until the nearly the 46th minute of the game.

Unfortunately, the third period belonged to the Hurricanes.

Sebastian Aho scored just 79 seconds into the frame to pull Carolina within one once again. Things really weren’t looking great when Vegas took a double-minor shortly thereafter.

However, Chandler Stephenson made an incredible play, chipping the puck to himself in the neutral zone and blowing past the Hurricanes to set himself up for a clean shorthanded breakaway. He made no mistake on the opportunity, effortlessly roofing a shot above Hurricanes netminder James Reimer to give Vegas its third two-goal lead of the game.

But from that point on, it was the Hurricanes that were in control.

A familiar face made it a one-goal game nearly two minutes after Stephenson’s shortie as Erik Haula, in his return to Vegas, scored on the power play to make it 4-3 just over four minutes into the third.

That was the first of three consecutive goals for the Hurricanes, who took a 5-4 lead on the power play with 6:02 left in the period.

Between the third period and overtime, the Hurricanes had 53.06 percent of the shot attempts and 61.9 percent of the expected goals. In other words, the Knights lost control when it counted, and that let them down.

Fortunately, Cody Eakin snapped his 14-game goalless drought in dramatic fashion to tie the game at 5-5 with under four minutes left in the third, forcing extra time.

The goal was just Eakin’s fourth of the season, but it couldn’t have come at a better time, and it helped Vegas salvage a point in what seemed destined to be a crushing loss.

Though Vegas had a carry-over power play in overtime, the Knights were unable to convert. The same was true in the shootout, leaving Vegas with just a point when all was said and done.

The game saw four players have both a goal and an assist, including Aho, Haula, Teuvo Teravainen and Theodore.

Marc-Andre Fleury had a rough third period, making just eight saves on 12 shots, but grew better as the final frame wore on, allowing one goal against in the last nine minutes. He was a savior for the team in 3-on-3 overtime, getting some help from the cross bar. He made 29 saves on 34 shots in the game but made just one stop on three shootout attempts.

The Hurricanes were the only ones to score in the shootout, as both Andrei Svechnikov and Justin Williams got pucks past Fleury.

Fleury finished the game with just an .853 save percentage and made five saves on eight high-danger chances. The Golden Knights only allowed 1.79 expected goals.

The Knights were effective with the puck all night, as only four of 18 skaters finished without a takeaway, and five had more than one. It’s fair to say they were the more disciplined team with the puck, with nine giveaways and 21(!) takeaways.

It was another strong showing of Vegas’ stellar puck movement, as only the first line and the pairing of Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb finished with Corsi below 50 percent, and several players (including the complete fourth line) finished with 100 percent high-danger shares.

This game held true to the Knights’ established pattern this season: they were the better team, but the other side got better luck and therefore got the better results. The Knights finished this game with yet another PDO below 1.000 (.984 in this case).

The Hurricanes competed and did take over in the third, but it’s certainly not the type of result the Knights can afford at this point of the season. The Knights move up just one point in the standings on a night where the Canucks lost in regulation.

Vegas next faces the Wild in Minnesota on Tuesday.