The Vegas Golden Knights are coming off arguably the biggest win of the season and need to turn consecutive wins into a winning streak when they take on the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday at Wells Fargo Center.
The Knights defeated Ottawa 2-1 with a buzzer-beater goal scored by none other than Jack Eichel, who netted the game-winner on the power play with just 5.2 seconds remaining.
A goal The Fortress will never forget pic.twitter.com/6DSKZ6CEE5— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) March 7, 2022
That’s the kind of moment that someone of Eichel’s caliber and pedigree is made for; that’s why Vegas traded for him, and that’s what the Knights hope to see from him moving forward.
Is it enough to spark a turnaround in Vegas’ fortunes?
But thanks to Eichel and a rock-solid performance by Robin Lehner, the Knights picked up two points they had to have; they’ll need to do the same tonight as they kick off a five-game road trip in the City of Brotherly Love.
Tonight’s action comes against a Flyers team currently occupying the eighth seed in the Metropolitan Division with an overall record of 17-28-10. Thirteen of those 17 wins came in the 2021 portion of the season.
The Flyers have won four games in 2022 (one in January, two in February and one in March) and just four of their last 25 games going back to Dec. 30.
This season has been a disaster for the Flyers, and the team’s recent track record certainly puts Vegas’ struggles into perspective.
The 2021-22 campaign has seen Philadelphia put together multiple 10-game losing streaks, and the club even managed to set a franchise record with 13 straight losses (the previous high was 12 back in 1998-99).
The first 10-game losing skid was snapped at T-Mobile Arena back on Dec. 10 when the Flyers secured a 4-3 win thanks to two third-period power-play goals.
The Knights enter tonight’s game after winning consecutive games for the first time since early February.
Philadelphia happens to be coming off a relatively exciting 4-3 win against Chicago, but that’s not saying all too much.
The game prior was one of the most frustrating losses of the year for Philadelphia, which is saying a lot; the Flyers blew four one-goal leads in a 5-4 loss to Minnesota.
One bright spot of the season has been the play of Claude Giroux, who is at the center of trade deadline discussion and is considered the biggest piece in play. Tonight will be game No. 996 for the longest-tenured captain in Flyers history.
His destination and the return package have yet to be determined, but it’s anyone’s guess with Chuck Fletcher at the helm; Knights fans should be pleasantly familiar with Fletcher after his remarkable generosity in the expansion draft.
After all, the Knights would not have Jack Eichel if not for Chuck Fletcher.
Cam Atkinson leads the Flyers in goals (20) and points (42); his two-goal and three-point performance against Chicago vaulted him over Giroux (17-23—40), who is tied with Travis Konecny with a team-high 23 assists.
The Flyers have allowed the fourth-highest goals-per-game rate in 2022 (3.79), and Vegas and Philadelphia rank 28th and 29th in goals scored per game since Jan. 1 (2.61 and 2.38, respectively).
Ironically, two of the three teams with lower averages are Ottawa and San Jose, two of three teams the Knights have managed to beat in recent games.
But Vegas is still a promising 3-1-0 in March, and points are points, especially for a team trying to find its footing.
What to watch for
- Vegas scored a goal in the final two minutes of each period when these teams met on Dec. 10. Those goals may not have been buzzer-beaters like Eichel’s, but William Karlsson lit the lamp at 19:11 of the first, while Max Pacioretty scored at 18:30 of the second and 18:15 of the third.
- The Knights are 3-4-0 all-time against the Flyers but 2-1-0 at Wells Fargo Center.
- Special teams: Like the Golden Knights, the Flyers’ power play has been an issue all season, even if that wasn’t the case when these teams met in December. The Flyers rank 30th on the power play, clicking at just 13.8 percent; the Philadelphia penalty kill ranks 22nd (76.6 percent). The Knights are 24th on the power play (18.1 percent) and 18th on the penalty kill (79.1 percent). That being said, if you take out the 2021 portion of the season — including when Vegas led the NHL in power-play goals in December — the Knights drop to 28th (16.1 percent) on the power play. The Flyers, meanwhile, have been the worst team in the NHL on the penalty kill since Jan. 1, operating at a brutal 67.8 percent.
- In the crease: Carter Hart will get the start for Philadelphia; he stopped 41 of 44 shots in the Dec. 10 meeting in Vegas. Lehner is coming off one of his best performances of the year; he stopped 39 of 40 shots and is the main reason the Knights were in a position to win.
- Injury report: Sean Couturier and Ryan Ellis were shut down for the season, but the Flyers got Kevin Hayes back in the lineup over the weekend; he has only played in 21 games this season. For the Knights, Brayden McNabb has been placed on injured reserve, joining Nolan Patrick (who also missed the Dec. 10 game and has yet to face his former team since getting dealt over the summer) and Mattias Janmark as well as Mark Stone, Alec Martinez and Jake Bischoff, all of whom are on long-term injured reserve.
- Now that McNabb has missed a game, the Knights have zero players who have played in all 57 games this season (though Keegan Kolesar has played in 56, missing one as a healthy scratch). The Flyers have four players who have suited up in 55 out of 55 games: Atkinson, James van Riemsdyk, Keith Yandle (who broke the ironman streak earlier this year) and Justin Braun.
- The Flyers are a combined 4-40-7 when trailing after the first or second period (Vegas is 8-22-2). That means taking a lead into intermission will go a long way for the Knights tonight.
- Philadelphia has won three games when giving up the first goal, so scoring first could be important — though not crucial — as well.
- Familiar face: Former Golden Knights center Patrick Brown, whom Philadelphia claimed on waivers in early October, scored his third goal of the season the other day and has two goals in his last six games. It’s a career-high for the Michigan native, who only scored one goal in five regular-season games with Vegas but potted three in postseason play.
Patrick Brown finds the crazy bounce in front and slams it home to tie it up for Vegas!#VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/RyDAX6AFjD— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) May 21, 2021
This guy still loves to score against the Wild..— Jillian Wagner (@JillianSydney) March 4, 2022
Patrick Brown with his third goal of the year (second in five games) #VegasBorn pic.twitter.com/eIksBczDTi
The Oilers lost again last night, giving the Knights a chance to maintain their lead in third place, while a win tonight would bring Vegas within one point of Los Angeles.
Calgary is running away with the division; the Flames now hold a seven-point lead with two games in hand over Vegas. Calgary is in action again tonight and has three additional games this week.
Here’s a look at the wildcard race ahead of tonight’s action, which also features Colorado, St. Louis, Minnesota, Dallas, Nashville and Anaheim:
Claude Giroux — Scott Laughton — Travis Konecny
Joel Farabee — Derick Brassard — Cam Atkinson
Oskar Lindblom — Kevin Hayes — James van Riemsdyk
Gerry Mayhew — Patrick Brown — Zack MacEwan
Ivan Provorov — Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim — Rasmus Ristolainen
Keith Yandle — Nick Seeler
Max Pacioretty — Jack Eichel — Nicolas Roy
Jonathan Marchessault — William Karlsson — Reilly Smith
Evgenii Dadonov — Chandler Stephenson — Michael Amadio
William Carrier — Jake Leschyshyn — Keegan Kolesar
Nicolas Hague — Alex Pietrangelo
Shea Theodore — Zach Whitecloud
Ben Hutton — Dylan Coghlan