That’s all it took for the Vegas Golden Knights to allow another two points to slip away.
The Knights responded with a much better effort after a disappointing performance Friday night in Arizona, but they were unable to get a different result when they hosted the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Despite holding a lead in the third period, the Knights fell victim to a quick-strike Colorado offense that scored two goals in 26 seconds to claim the 3-2 victory.
While the Knights played a solid and defensively-sound game for most of the night, it wasn’t enough to come away with the two critical points. It was the team’s fifth loss in its last six games and leaves Vegas in a precarious position in the Pacific Division race.
Max Pacioretty and Mattias Janmark were out of the lineup after suffering injuries Friday night, but Jonathan Marchessault returned and had a strong game.
It wasn’t enough to get the Knights back in the win column, however.
The Knights got off to an excellent start and outshot the Avalanche 8-1 out of the gate. An inability to capitalize on early chances cost the Knights Friday in Arizona, but that wasn’t an issue in this one.
Chandler Stephenson opened the scoring on a breakaway just over four minutes into the first, collecting a stretch pass from Jack Eichel and going five-hole to beat Darcy Kuemper and give Vegas an early 1-0 lead.
It was all Vegas early, but an untimely Keegan Kolesar hooking penalty at center ice let Colorado get right back into the game.
Though the Knights technically killed it off, Andre Burakovsky beat Laurent Brossoit short-side right after the penalty expired, evening things up at 1-1 just over three minutes after Stephenson’s tally.
But making his presence felt after missing Friday’s game was Marchessault, who gave the Knights a 2-1 lead just 1:21 after Colorado tied it.
Reilly Smith forced a turnover to set up a 2-on-1, and Marchessault one-timed his saucer feed past Kuemper for his 21st goal of the season.
It was a big goal for the Knights, who were able to take back the momentum.
The Knights held Colorado without a shot in the final 7:19 of the frame. Vegas led 15-6 in shots, 23-12 in Corsi and 9-2 in high-danger Corsi at all strengths.
Though neither team scored in the middle frame, that doesn’t mean there weren’t chances.
Alex Newhook had a great opportunity in front but was shut down by Brossoit, who made several huge saves to preserve Vegas’ one-goal lead. It was Brossoit’s second start in two nights, and he had another stellar performance. He was particularly clutch in the second period, where Colorado held a 5-2 edge in high-danger Corsi at 5-on-5.
The Knights had to kill off a late penalty, but two key blocks by Nic Hague helped them get the job done to keep the Avalanche off the board.
All in all, it was a simple-yet-effective 20 minutes for the Golden Knights, who took a page out of the playbook they used against Colorado in last year’s second-round matchup, frustrating the Avalanche at the blue line and slowing down their transition game.
But the Avalanche flipped the script in the third, and it didn’t take much.
The Avalanche scored two goals in the span of 26 seconds, and they did so despite recording just three shots in the entire third period.
First, a Jack Johnson point shot deflected off J.T. Compher, who set the screen in front.
Hey look!! Jesse Compher's number one fan scored. pic.twitter.com/zYUBQROsr1— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 27, 2022
On the very next shift, the Knights turned the puck over at the Colorado blue line, and much like Vegas had done throughout the game, the Avalanche capitalized in transition.
The Knights had held Nathan MacKinnon without a shot on goal (one night after he recorded 14 against Winnipeg), but his first of the game ended up in the back of the net.
MacKinnon’s one-timer found twine to give Colorado a 3-2 lead in the blink of an eye at 6:06 of the third.
The Knights held the Avalanche without another shot on goal for the rest of the game.
Vegas got a critical power play less than two minutes later, setting them up for a perfect opportunity to hit the reset button.
They did not.
In the end, the Knights were unable to recover and lost by a final score of 3-2.
It was a disappointing turn of events, especially since the Knights played a strong game.
One night after the top six accounted for 11 shots and zero goals, both of the Knights’ top two lines got on the board and did so early, setting the tone for a methodical and balanced approach against the best team in the league.
However, the Knights were unable to give themselves a cushion when it was 2-1 for nearly two full periods of hockey (37:09).
The Knights’ power play was an issue once again, and it was particularly glaring tonight; Vegas has now gone 0-for-7 over the last three games.
Despite the late turnover, it was a standout night for the Misfit Line, which finished the game with an 80.95 percent Corsi share (17-4), 80 percent shot share (12-3), 69.23 percent scoring chance share (9-4) and 64.33 percent expected goal share.
With Edmonton, Los Angeles and Calgary all winning their respective games today, the Knights now trail the first-place Flames by six points, the second-place Kings by three points and hold just a one-point lead over the Oilers, who could move into third place with a win tomorrow against Carolina. That would knock Vegas into the second wildcard seed.
Friday night’s game against the Coyotes was the true failed opportunity; tonight was a hard-fought game spoiled by a third-period lapse. But Vegas couldn’t find a way to close out a one-goal game in the third period, and once Colorado took the lead, the Knights didn’t have enough to get the equalizer.
The Knights have a few days off before playing 16 games in 30 days in March. Vegas has won just one of six games since Mark Stone was placed on long-term injured reserve and Jack Eichel joined the lineup, though Eichel was hardly to blame for tonight’s result.
The Knights would not have been in either half of this back-to-back set without the play of Brossoit, who finished tonight’s game with 18 saves on 21 shots. Though he surrendered two goals on three shots in the third, he was screened on one and had no chance on the 2-on-1.
The Knights have spun their wheels for much of the year, but the inconsistency is starting to have real repercussions.