It’s safe to say they did not find it.
In fact, Vegas’ performance in the 5-3 loss was about as inconsistent as it gets.
Instead, the Knights threw away a three-goal lead in one of the most disappointing defeats of the season. Pittsburgh’s five unanswered goals in the second and third periods handed Vegas its fifth loss in six games this month (1-3-2).
This was a tale of two games.
Initially, it appeared as though the recent extended break had done wonders for what looked like a fresh and particularly hungry Vegas lineup in the first period.
But the surging Penguins — now winners of 13 of their last 15 games — put an end to that as soon as the puck was dropped in the second. Vegas miraculously held on to a lead entering the third, but Pittsburgh erased it almost immediately.
It marks the team’s 12th loss at T-Mobile Arena this season (12-10-2) and further jeopardizes the narrow lead Vegas maintains in the Pacific Division.
The Golden Knights were electric early on, taking Pittsburgh by surprise with three first-period goals.
They did so on just seven shots in one of the Knights’ best opening frames of the season.
Chandler Stephenson got things started with his 11th of the year, using his textbook speed to get around the Pittsburgh defender before beating Tristan Jarry just 3:43 into the game.
raise your hand if Chandler Stephenson is faster than you ♀️ ♂️ pic.twitter.com/e8Fhz1HZF5— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) January 18, 2022
Just over 12 minutes into the period, Evgenii Dadonov went to the net and deflected a point shot from Mark Stone, giving the Knights a 2-0 lead and all the momentum.
Here's a tip: keep a jacket, sweater or long-sleeve tee around in case it gets chilly— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) January 18, 2022
Here's another tip: pic.twitter.com/bh3JfKE09y
The Knights added one more in the final 30 seconds of the period on the power play, as Nic Roy cashed in on a rebound after several strong scoring chances.
Despite outshooting Vegas 8-7, the Penguins found themselves in a three-goal hole, though that did not deter them.
It was all Pittsburgh in the second, and if the first period was one of Vegas’ best of the year, the second was one of the absolute worst.
The Penguins were all over Vegas from the start, forcing Robin Lehner to make several key stops early in the frame. Pittsburgh proceeded to draw two tripping penalties in under three minutes and scored on the second, jamming the puck under Lehner.
First game back since December 19 and Jason Zucker is already scoring power-play goals pic.twitter.com/eHkZwikqHv— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 18, 2022
It was Nevada native Jason Zucker, in his first game back in the Penguins lineup, who got the Penguins on the board.
Just 49 seconds later, Pittsburgh made it a one-goal game.
Brian Boyle got behind Shea Theodore after receiving a stretch pass at the Vegas blue line, but it was the trailing Teddy Blueger who capitalized on the rebound after Lehner made a glove stop on the initial shot.
And just like that Teddy Blueger bangs home Brian Boyle's rebound to get the Penguins within one. pic.twitter.com/z5C5engsTP— Danny Shirey (@DannyShireyPGH) January 18, 2022
Lehner came up with a huge stop on a Sidney Crosby backhand on a partial breakaway shortly thereafter, preserving the Vegas lead despite the massively-tilted ice.
The Knights didn’t get a shot on goal for nearly 12 minutes, while Pittsburgh recorded the first 13 of the frame. The Knights had a glorious chance when Jarry gave up the puck behind the net, but he made a diving desperation poke-check save to protect the empty cage, and the Knights fumbled the follow-up chance.
Vegas had some sustained pressure in the offensive zone at the end of the frame, but it certainly did not carry over into the third.
Once again, it was all Pittsburgh early.
This time, however, the Penguins didn’t waste any time.
Zucker was ultimately credited with his second goal of the game, evening the score at 3-3 after getting a piece of a Kasperi Kapanen shot right off the draw 28 seconds into the frame.
Then, Jake Guentzel gave the Penguins their first lead with a wraparound goal at 2:12.
Lehner made a few stops at the side of the net but was unable to get across to the other post, and no one got a stick on Guentzel in time.
For the second time, the Penguins scored two goals in under two minutes, and Guentzel’s 20th of the season marked four unanswered tallies by Pittsburgh.
Though the Knights improved their neutral-zone play in the third and somewhat leveled the playing field, the Penguins made it five straight when Crosby scored an empty-netter to seal the win.
In the end, the Knights were outshot 37-26 after trailing 18-6 through two periods. Notably, this is the first time the Knights have been outshot in 23 games.
There weren’t many takeaways from this one, a complete collapse by Vegas. The Misfit line had a particularly rough night, and Jonathan Marchessault didn’t record a shot on goal until the end of the third period. Lehner made some key stops, though his lateral mobility proved costly on the game-winner. He made 32 saves for an .889 save percentage.
The Knights have now lost three straight at home.
This eight-game homestand concludes Thursday night against Montreal, currently occupying last place in the NHL standings. It will be the first home meeting between the clubs since last year’s third-round postseason series.
The Knights are still in playoff position, but that’s not something they can afford to take lightly.