The Vegas Golden Knights entered Friday’s game against Arizona with a perfect 4-0-0 record but were unable to extend that undefeated streak as the Coyotes took game three of this series by a final score of 5-2.
Vegas trailed for almost the entire game, but it was Arizona’s two second-period goals — scored in the span of 4:05 — that were particularly costly. A goal by Conor Garland early in the third ultimately put this one out of reach.
It was Robin Lehner’s third start of the season but turned into his first regular-season loss with the Golden Knights. He stopped 21 of 25 shots for a save percentage of .840; he made some key stops, including two breakaway opportunities for Arizona, but was far from his best tonight.
The Knights got off to a rough start. Again.
However, the game was not lost in the first period.
Christian Dvorak opened the scoring just 30 seconds into Arizona’s first power play of the night, giving the Coyotes a 1-0 lead 3:22 into the game. Arizona held that lead into the second period.
But Shea Theodore evened things up 79 seconds into the middle frame, scoring his third goal in the last two games on an absolute laser.
He capitalized on an Arizona turnover and ripped it over the shoulders of Darcy Kuemper, who had a strong game for the Coyotes.
But goals from Derick Brassard and Nick Schmaltz later in the period gave the Coyotes a two-goal lead, which Vegas was never able to overcome.
First, Brassard beat Lehner cleanly.
It was a sloppy change by the Knights, but there was no screen on the play, so it’s likely one Lehner would like to get back.
Schmaltz, who has now scored a goal in all three games of this series, scored just over four minutes later.
It was a case of blown coverage for the Knights, as three players all moved towards Garland. However, Schmaltz out-waited Lehner, who went down early, and lifted the puck into the open net.
Two of Vegas’ four wins this season were won with third-period comebacks.
But that was not in the cards tonight.
Garland made that clear early on, as he scored just 1:25 into the final frame.
It was a partial three-on-two opportunity for Arizona; Garland brought the puck into the middle of the ice, and as Lehner slid across the crease, Garland slipped a backhand shot under his pads.
The goal gave Arizona a commanding 4-1 lead and was a huge boost for the Coyotes, and the Knights weren’t able to respond for nearly 10 minutes.
Vegas’ power play had been awful throughout the game (and has been most of this season), but the Knights finally connected in the second half of a double-minor later in the period.
Cody Glass, who was back in the lineup, tipped a Mark Stone shot as it went into the net, beating Kuemper for his first goal of the season.
Stone came close to scoring late in the frame, but otherwise the Knights were unable to pull within one. Arizona scored an empty-net goal to seal the 5-2 win.
It was a big night for special teams, or at least a busy one.
The Knights took three penalties in the first period alone and added three more in the third. Arizona’s empty-net goal was scored on the power play, but once again the Knights had a pretty strong kill despite giving up the early goal.
The power play was another story.
Though the Knights eventually scored a power-play goal, Vegas continues to look disjointed on the man advantage, and a more effective power play could have helped Vegas climb back in this game.
The Knights’ fourth line was its best throughout the game, even though it didn’t score. Tomas Nosek, Ryan Reaves and William Carrier finished the game with a Corsi For percentage of 65, a 64.29 percent shot share, 50.91 percent expected goal share and 66.67 percent scoring chance share.
It was another game in which Pete DeBoer elected to use 13 forwards and five defensemen, with Nicolas Hague serving as the healthy scratch.
This was somewhat surprising considering how well the third line of Alex Tuch, Keegan Kolesar and Nicolas Roy played the other night. Plus, Kolesar played just 3:47 tonight (though he did have a great chance in front but was robbed by Kuemper).
Once again, Theodore’s ice time (22:21) suffered as a result. He played fewer minutes than Alex Pietrangelo (26:22), Alec Martinez (24:01) and Zach Whitecloud (22:34) despite leading all of them in Corsi (62.22 percent) and scoring chance share (65.38 percent).
Also, Jonathan Marchessault’s ice time was down again; he played just 13:52.
It’s unclear what the motivation is for this strategy, but it will be interesting to see if DeBoer goes back to it after tonight’s one-sided loss.
These teams will square off once again Sunday afternoon in Arizona in the final game of this mini series.