The Vegas Golden Knights suffered just their second regulation defeat since the All-Star break after a rough start left them chasing in a 2-1 loss to the Florida Panthers Tuesday night at FLA Live Arena.
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak and marked the first time all season the Golden Knights lost in regulation when giving up two or fewer goals (24-1-1).
Adin Hill was stellar, stopping 40 of 42 shots for a .952 save percentage; however, yet another fantastic performance by the Vegas netminder wasn’t enough to help the Golden Knights come away with any points in the first installment of the club’s five-game road trip.
A sloppy opening frame could have gone very differently if not for Hill’s 14-save performance, though the Panthers were able to take a 1-0 lead just 4:25 into the contest when Ryan Lomberg scored from the slot.
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Roughly four minutes into the second period, Aleksander Barkov gave Florida a 2-0 lead with what proved to be the game-winning goal. A turnover at the blue line led to a cross-crease feed that Barkov put home for his 17th of the season.
Duclair → Barkov‼️
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Later in the frame, the Golden Knights pulled within one with a power-play goal by Shea Theodore, who scored on a one-timer from the blue line.
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Theodore continued his hot streak and now has goals in back-to-back games and four goals and 12 points in his last 11 contests.
Jack Eichel recorded the primary assist on the play, extending his point streak to four games (3-3—6); he has 15 points in his last 12 games.
But that was the only time Vegas got one past Sergei Bobrovsky, who finished the game with 31 saves and a .969 save percentage.
After the game, Bruce Cassidy likened the game to Vegas’ performance against New Jersey in which the Devils outshot Vegas 50-27. Though the shot disparity was more reasonable in Sunrise (42-32), there were similarities.
For one thing, Hill kept Vegas in a game it didn’t deserve to be in.
For another, the Golden Knights had defensive deficiencies and long stretches where they were outplayed.
“We didn’t protect the slot, we didn’t execute on the breakout at all, [Hill] held us in, so it gives them a lot of life,” Cassidy said. “We didn’t put any pressure on them in the first period. … We chased the game the whole night and never caught up to it.”
In the end, the rough start that saw Florida lead Vegas 30-16 in shot attempts and 16-10 in scoring chances in the first period was the difference in the game.
“You gotta be ready when the puck drops,” Cassidy said. “They were, we weren’t.”
Theodore echoed that sentiment.
“I thought we played great in the second and third, but you definitely need better starts down the stretch here.”
In addition to the slow start, Vegas committed too many turnovers and failed to capitalize on chances.
The Golden Knights did score on the power play and were able to draw four penalties after getting just three total in the previous three games. The power play looked better but still went 1-for-4 on the night (the penalty kill went 2-for-2).
But the Panthers were the better team early, and the Golden Knights found themselves chasing.
The top line of Eichel, Jonathan Marchessault and Ivan Barbashev had a particularly rough night, losing the Corsi battle 14-7 and giving up a goal in 11:22. The only Vegas combination that managed a Corsi share above 50 percent was Chandler Stephenson, William Karlsson and Michael Amadio, but it was a 3-1 advantage in just 2:22.
The Golden Knights will look to rebound against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.