Golden Knights underwhelm in Denver, get shut out in 3-0 loss to Avalanche to end point streak

This was Vegas’ first regulation loss since the All-Star break.

All good things come to an end, or so the saying goes.

Tonight, that was the case for the Vegas Golden Knights’ point streak, which ended at nine games thanks to a 3-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena. It was the first regulation loss Vegas has suffered since returning from the All-Star break.

An early gaffe just seconds into the contest led to what proved to be the game-winning goal, and the Golden Knights were shut out for just the second time this season (Jan. 16 against Dallas).

Adin Hill got the nod for the Golden Knights after Vegas announced that Laurent Brossoit was day-to-day (he later was placed on injured reserve to facilitate the call-up of Michael Hutchinson). It was Hill’s first start in over a week, and while it got off to a brutal start, he was otherwise solid, stopping 31 of 33 shots for a .939 save percentage.

However, it was Hill who was responsible for the turnover that led directly to Mikko Rantanen’s goal just 14 seconds into the game.

Hesitation in the trapezoid led to a careless pass that was knocked out of the air by Rantanen and then fired into the yawning cage, giving Colorado the only lead it needed for the rest of the night.

Rantanen scored his second of the game with 3:40 remaining in the second period on a defensive breakdown by Vegas. Hill had no chance on this one, as Rantanen received a cross-ice feed and was all alone for the one-timer.

The Golden Knights got a power play — their first and only power play of the game — midway through the third period, but it was another failed opportunity as the Golden Knights finish the month 1-for-20 on the man-advantage.

Bruce Cassidy elected to pull Hill early, but it didn’t take the Avalanche long to (easily) win a board battle before Nathan MacKinnon fired the puck down the ice to seal it.

Despite the way Vegas has played in recent games, tonight was a flat performance. The Golden Knights were not strong in the neutral zone, and Colorado slowed them down enough to prevent odd-man rushes, thus severely limiting Vegas’ dynamic offense.

Vegas’ efforts in the offensive zone weren’t overly compelling either. It took nearly eight minutes for the Golden Knights to record a shot on goal in the third period, and they had many one-and-done chances throughout the game.

In fact, Cassidy attributed the loss to Vegas’ inability to be strong on pucks in the offensive zone.

“We got pushed off pucks pretty much all night,” he said. “We generated a few slot looks but we didn’t get the second chance from that. ... We weren’t hard enough on pucks in the [offensive zone].”

He referenced Colorado’s empty-net goal as a prime example, as the Golden Knights won the faceoff but quickly lost possession after a weak effort along the boards.

The Golden Knights didn’t test Avalanche netminder Alexandar Georgiev enough. He made 31 saves but didn’t have to fight through traffic.

Hill, meanwhile, was tested all night and was excellent after the first 14 seconds of the game. While that proved to be the difference on the scoreboard, this loss is not on his shoulders. He stepped up following his early blunder and made some critical saves to keep Vegas in it until the end.

Ivan Barbashev played 16:40 in his Golden Knights debut, skating on the top line with Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchessault. Barbashev finished the game with a minus-one rating, one shot, one hit and one block. The top line had a 48.57 percent Corsi share in 14:18, holding an 11-8 edge in shots; however, the trio was on the ice for Rantanen’s second-period tally, which was an all-around mess for the Golden Knights in the defensive zone.

Barbashev came partly as advertised, as he was strong on the forecheck and went to the net; however, it wasn’t a great showing for the newest member of the Golden Knights, who blended in with most of his teammates on a night when the Golden Knights were pushed around.

The only line that finished the game with a positive Corsi share was the third line (62.5 percent), which continues to play very well. The trio of Chandler Stephenson, William Carrier and Phil Kessel held a 6-3 edge in shots, 4-1 lead in scoring chances and a 2-0 advantage in high-danger shot attempts.

Most notably, however, was the line’s expected goal share of 86.35 percent. That’s especially true considering the first, second and fourth lines finished with expected goal shares of 41.83, 40.48 and 31.21 percent, respectively.

As for the performance as a whole, Alec Martinez summed it up best: “For whatever reason, we just didn’t play well.”

Needless to say, the Golden Knights have to address some of these issues ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Hurricanes. Carolina plays a similar, tightly-checked game, so the Golden Knights have to find an answer for being shut down through the neutral zone if they hope to compete.