The Vegas Golden Knights suffered a 1-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena. It was the team’s first regulation loss at home (7-1-1) and first loss to the Ducks (3-1-0) this season.
Max Comtois, Vegas’ newest nemesis, scored the lone goal of the contest with 7:42 remaining in the third period.
No one picks up on 53, who is the guy this team should be watching every time he's on the ice. pic.twitter.com/3UYvukY95E— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) February 12, 2021
However, that’s not the highlight that will be remembered from this game.
That one belongs to Marc-Andre Fleury, and it’ll be replayed all year as a save-of-the-year candidate.
Halfway through the second period, Anaheim’s Isaac Lundestrom got the puck just outside the crease. Fleury tried for the poke-check, but Lundestrom dodged the sliding attempt and instead cut the puck back across the crease for a slam-dunk goal. Or so he thought.
It may have been a wide-open net, but no one told Fleury that. In desperation, Fleury dove back across the crease and made a goal-line stop with his arm.
It was somewhat reminiscent of Fleury’s dolphin save against Mark Scheifele in the 2018 Western Conference Final, and it’ll go down — along with his leaping save on Nic Petan of Toronto — as one of his best stops as a Golden Knight.
But the 36-year-old’s stellar performance was wasted in what turned out to be his first loss of the season. The guy at the other end of the ice can more than relate, but tonight John Gibson came away with the shutout win after stopping 21 of 21 shots, 10 of which came in the third period.
The Golden Knights did not have a good night, and their ghastly (or jarring, at the very least) new gold chrome helmets can’t shoulder all the blame (though it is the first time the Knights have lost while debuting new uniforms).
There was some uncertainty about whether this game would even take place; the Knights canceled Wednesday’s practice after Tomas Nosek was removed from Tuesday’s game and tested positive for COVID-19. However, protocols were followed and the puck was dropped.
Anaheim more than deserves its fair share of credit for a hard-fought win.
The Ducks battled back Tuesday night from a 4-1 deficit and carried some of that life into tonight’s contest. They were absolutely dominant in the first two periods.
The Ducks outshot Vegas 13-4 in the first and 21-11 through 40 minutes; in fact, the Knights came close to setting a new franchise low for shots on goal but ultimately finished the game with 21 after an improved effort in the third frame.
The first two, however, were all Anaheim.
The Ducks held an 18-7 edge in scoring chances and 8-1 advantage in high-danger Corsi at all strengths. The Knights failed to record a single high-danger chance in the second period, though Vegas did manage a few by the end of the night to make it a slightly more palatable 9-4 deficit.
The Ducks were the better team in almost every facet of the game; they finished the night with a 57.98 percent expected goal share and even recorded more than twice as many blocks as the Knights (25-12).
Ultimately, Comtois made the biggest play of the game as he beat Fleury on a one-timer from the slot off a feed from Rickard Rakell.
Four of Comtois’ six goals this season have come against the Knights.
But the fact that this was a 0-0 game through 52 minutes is a testament to Fleury. It was his second straight start as Robin Lehner suffered an injury in morning skate and was a late scratch.
Fleury was the busiest and best player on the ice for either team, turning aside 27 of 28 shots.
He’s now 5-1-0 with a 1.68 goals-against average and .929 save percentage on the year.
Alex Pietrangelo returned to the Vegas lineup for the first time this month; he missed three games after being placed in COVID-19 protocol Jan. 27. Pietrangelo led all players with a game-high 26:28 of ice time; Alec Martinez played 25:01, while the other four played between 14:18 (Nick Holden, playing in his 500th career game) and 18:33 (Nic Hague).
The Knights may have gotten Pietrangelo back, but Shea Theodore was missed. Sorely.
The defense had a rough night, forcing Fleury to bail them out on too many occasions. Dylan Coghlan made a notable play in the third period to prevent a breakaway, and he continues to look more and more comfortable, but it’s difficult to overlook the effects of Theodore’s absence.
At one point, Vegas was missing two top-six forwards and two top-four defensemen, with Theodore and Brayden McNabb out of the lineup, Mark Stone not on the bench after suffering an injury (he finished the game, though) and Jonathan Marchessault serving a 10-minute misconduct. It was just one of those nights.
Fortunately for the Golden Knights, the one area of their game that came through was the penalty kill, though the power play, which had improved in recent games, was out of sorts once again.
When all is said and done, the Knights were outplayed, and it was the first time Vegas was held off the scoresheet through 11 games this season.
Vegas remains in first place in the Western Division with an 8-2-1 record and two games in hand over the second-place Blues.
Next up is a road battle against the Sharks as Pete DeBoer makes his return to San Jose.