It was Vegas’ sixth straight loss against the division (0-5-1).
The Golden Knights surrendered two quick goals in the first 1:42 of the first period and ultimately were unable to recover.
Though the Golden Knights stayed in the game and battled back multiple times, they trailed for 59:15 and never led. The Oilers made Vegas pay for mistakes all night, and the Golden Knights gave up multiple odd-man rushes that resulted in goals for the road team.
The mistakes started early.
Former Golden Knights forward Mattias Janmark caught Vegas off guard and broke in behind the defensemen, collecting a breakout pass from Tyson Barrie to open the scoring just 45 seconds into the game.
mattias janmark gets sprung and scores against his former team. it's an early 1-0 oilers lead. pic.twitter.com/3EThdKWQDt— zach (@zjlaing) January 15, 2023
Less than a minute later, Leon Draisaitl capitalized on an Alex Pietrangelo turnover, batting Connor McDavid’s rebound out of the air to make it 2-0 just 1:42 into the game.
The Oilers came close to taking a three-goal lead multiple times, but Logan Thompson came up with some critical saves — including on a McDavid breakaway — to keep Vegas in the game. He also made multiple saves on an Edmonton power play in the first period, single-handedly preventing the Oilers from running away with the game early.
That gave the fourth line enough time to do some damage for the second game in a row, and it was a fantastic workhorse shift that got Vegas on the board.
It started with a huge hit by Keegan Kolesar on Draisaitl in the neutral zone and ended with Kolesar banking the puck off Oilers netminder Jack Campbell for his fifth of the year. The fourth line was relentless in the offensive zone, and Kolesar eventually cashed in on a shot from behind the net with 1:14 remaining in the first.
It was Kolesar’s third point in the last two games and sixth point in the last six; as a result, the Golden Knights miraculously trailed by just one goal after one.
Bruce Cassidy shuffled the lines for the second period, reuniting the Misfit Line and putting Phil Kessel on the third line with Paul Cotter and Byron Froese, who was called up prior to the game.
Those two lines scored for Vegas in the second as the two clubs traded goals, with Edmonton striking first both times.
Draisaitl scored his second of the game 7:22 in to restore the Oilers’ two-goal lead. He and Darnell Nurse broke out on a 2-on-1 after sloppy puck management by Vegas in the offensive zone.
But the Golden Knights’ third line responded.
Froese found his way onto the scoresheet for the first time as a member of the Golden Knights, courtesy of Cotter’s sixth of the season, which brought Vegas within one at 13:39 of the second.
It was a strong shift by Cotter, who weaved his way through several Oilers before getting a shot away. Kessel retrieved the rebound from behind the net and found Froese, who hit the cross bar. Cotter, who never stopped moving on the shift, followed through across the net and put home the rebound, knocking the puck out of the air on his backhand with authority.
Byron Froese picks up an assist for his first point as a Golden Knight! pic.twitter.com/TkyDI9HlYw— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) January 15, 2023
But it was a short-lived momentum burst, as Klim Kostin put the Oilers back up by two just 18 seconds later, beating Thompson with a snapshot under the glove. It was another odd-man rush, this time off an ill-advised pinch, that ended up in the back of Vegas’ net.
Will the real Klim Shady please stand up. pic.twitter.com/NUaUDBg4z8— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 15, 2023
That made it a 4-2 game at 13:57 of the second period.
It was a back-breaking goal and proved to be the game-winner, though Vegas did pull within one once again before the end of the frame.
William Karlsson scored for the second game in a row, blasting home a one-timer off a feed from Jonathan Marchessault to make it 4-3 with just 42 seconds left in the second.
However, the Golden Knights were unable to find the back of the net in the third period, falling 4-3 to bring their record to 2-2-0 on this seven-game homestand.
The Golden Knights did not play particularly well but battled and remained in the game. However, they repeatedly got in their own way, giving a skilled Oilers offense way too many gift-wrapped chances.
Thompson finished the game with 33 saves on 37 shots for an .892 save percentage, but he is the reason this game was not a blowout from the start. Cassidy said after the game that the mistakes the Golden Knights committed were too significant to expect Thompson to bail them out.
With Mark Stone sidelined, it was important for guys like Jack Eichel and Chandler Stephenson to step up, but that did not happen.
Both finished with minus-three ratings and zero shots on goal. Both also had zero individual scoring chances and managed individual expected goal totals of .01 and .04, respectively, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Head Coach Bruce Cassidy after Saturday's loss to Edmonton pic.twitter.com/7IEl3UvorH— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) January 15, 2023
In the end, the Golden Knights couldn’t fight their way back. As a result, Vegas no longer leads the Pacific Division by points percentage, as Seattle holds a slight edge (.667 compared to Vegas’ .659).
Making matters worse, William Carrier left the game and did not return. Pietrangelo and Cotter also were slow to get up after blocking a shot and getting tangled in a battle with McDavid, respectively, though both finished the game.
The injury bug continues to tear through the Golden Knights lineup, but losing part of that fourth line would be a significant loss for Vegas. Cassidy did not have an update on Carrier following the game, but he is the second player in the last two contests to leave the game and not return (Stone being the other).
The Golden Knights will be back in action Monday when they welcome Pete DeBoer and the Dallas Stars to town.