The Vegas Golden Knights saw their five-game winning streak come to an end Sunday afternoon as the Los Angeles Kings handed them a 3-1 loss to split the series. It was Vegas’ first loss to the Kings this season.
It was a rough afternoon for the Golden Knights on the whole, and not having Max Pacioretty (day-to-day) in the lineup didn’t help. Though a Tomas Nosek goal in the third period made it a one-goal contest with under four minutes to go, the Kings followed that up with a back-breaking goal just 55 seconds later to put this one away.
Both teams played well in the first period, but the wheels came off for Vegas in the second.
It started with an extended shift leading to the Kings’ first goal of the day.
The Kings had the puck in Vegas’ end for over a minute, which eventually led to a scramble in front of the net. The Knights were unable to clear or even find the puck, and though Fleury was stretched out across the goal line, defenseman Sean Walker potted his first of the season.
In the midst of getting cross-checked by Jonathan Marchessault, Walker somehow found the puck and scored on a backhand to give the Kings a 1-0 lead.
That goal ended up being even more costly, however.
Pete DeBoer decided to challenge the play for goaltender interference. It’s unclear exactly what led to this decision, as there wasn’t any interference on the play. Not surprisingly, the challenge was unsuccessful. Vegas was assessed a two-minute minor for delay of game due to the failed challenge, which put the Kings on the power play.
Dustin Brown scored on that power play, making it a 2-0 game in the span of just 51 seconds.
It was a backdoor tap-in for Brown thanks to crisp cross-ice feeds from Anze Kopitar and Alex Iafallo.
The Knights had several power plays of their own but were unable to generate much. That was a theme throughout the game.
In fact, the special teams were a major factor in the outcome. The power play has been an issue for this team all year, but it was front-and-center in today’s contest.
The Knights failed to capitalize on two power plays late in the second period as well as two early in the third.
It appeared as though Chandler Stephenson had scored a goal off a rebound into a wide-open net, but Drew Doughty made an incredible play to block the shot on the goal line. He did, however, get called for delay of game as the net was knocked off after the shot.
That penalty gave Vegas a 5-on-3 for 1:31. All of Fleury’s strong play up until that point kept the Knights in the game, and the two-man advantage was a glorious opportunity for the Knights to start a comeback.
That did not happen.
All Vegas could do was pass the puck to Shea Theodore on the right side for a one-timer. He had many opportunities on the 5-on-3, though several missed the net, one was blocked and one was saved by Cal Petersen, who had yet another strong performance against the Knights, making 41 saves for a save percentage of .976.
Pacioretty was missed greatly on the power play, and that’s no knock on Theodore. There’s not much Theodore can do when everyone on the ice knows the puck is coming to him; plus, the puck movement wasn’t decisive or crisp enough to give Theodore any space or leverage.
Even so, the Knights had a much better period in the third. They took over possession, finishing with a 77.27 percent Corsi share and a 65.38 expected goal share at 5-on-5. Also, they outshot the Kings 24-7.
Eventually, one of those shots went in.
Nosek made a strong individual effort after Keegan Kolesar recovered a turnover in the neutral zone; Nosek skated right around Doughty, and his shot went off Petersen’s mask, off Nosek and into the net.
But less than a minute later, Jeff Carter scored on a breakaway, forcing Fleury to open his pads and sliding the puck into the net.
The Knights pulled Fleury for the extra attacker for a late push, but Carter’s tally clinched the win.
For most of the game, nothing was clicking for the Knights. Passes were off, players were fanning on wide-open nets, Reilly Smith couldn’t catch a break, etc.
The power play was more ineffective than usual, and it’s simply not always possible to mount a comeback.
Plus, at the end of the day, the game-winning goal came off the failed challenge. It was a poor challenge and also a strong play by the Kings’ forwards.
Vegas still has a three-point lead in the division standings but missed out on taking advantage of its game in hand over Colorado.
Fortunately for the Knights, they can wipe the slate clean and have a chance to right the ship as they host the Blues tomorrow night at T-Mobile Arena.
Vegas won both meetings between these teams earlier this month; St. Louis has won two out of its last three games since.