Following an agonizing overtime loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night, the Vegas Golden Knights hosted the team from the north once again looking to even the current series at one game apiece. Although they took a loss, the Golden Knights were able to salvage a point in the standings, down two forwards and one of their every day defensemen.
Cody Glass, Patrick Brown, Dylan Coghlan, and Nick Holden entered the lineup for Saturday night’s contest. Glass and Coghlan have gotten ample time with the big club this season while Brown and Holden have been used sparingly. Brown is on loan from the Henderson Silver Knights (AHL) where he serves as the team’s captain. Defenseman Nic Hague, who played Thursday night, was surprisingly out of the lineup.
It was Hockey Fights Cancer night in Vegas and Marc-Andre Fleury was back in net for the home team. The Wild created a few turnovers that led to sustained pressure in his end in the opening period, but he was up to the task. At the other end, Cam Talbot was back in goal after playing a big part in his team’s shootout win the last time out.
Tomas Nosek opened the scoring for the night with a beautiful backhand finish that beat Talbot to the blocker side. His ability to stay onside during Alex Tuch’s hesitation play at the Wild blue line led to the opportunity. Nicolas Roy let the dump in go by, anticipating the offside call (confirmed by Stormy Buonantony at intermission), which led the puck directly to Nosek off the corner boards. The play seemed to catch Roy, the Wild, and this writer all off guard.
Later in the period, Jonathan Marchessault set Shea Theodore up with a beautiful cross-ice pass in tight, that the dynamic defenseman fanned on. A sliding Talbot was able to cover the slow-moving puck between his legs. With more stick on it, Theodore would’ve put it closer to the far post, giving the Wild a 2-0 hole to climb out of.
While they didn’t contribute to a goal and played sparingly, the patchwork fourth line of the Golden Knights played some fun hockey. Keegan Kolesar, William Carrier, and Patrick Brown played fast, aggressive, and very north-south. Three hard skaters who don’t shy away from hitting and the “dirty areas”, but still have some skill to their game. That will be a fun line to watch, for as long as they’re needed.
Theodore had more excitement in the second period with another close call. With their first Power Play chance of the game, Theodore sent a wrist shot into traffic from the blue line that caught iron. The puck was redirected on its way to Talbot, but the Wild were able to avert danger once again. At even strength, the Golden Knights were able to keep the pressure on, building off their momentum from the Power Play.
Some more back and forth action, highlighted by a Marchessault breakaway chance, led to the end of the second period. Fleury was forced to make one more big save in the closing minute of the second. He was able to locate a wide angle shot and the rebound in traffic, with the Wild bearing down on him. A split-second later in reaction time and Marcus Johansson would’ve been looking at a prime opportunity to knot the game up at one goal apiece.
Other than a tit-for-tat trade off of minor penalties, the game was fairly clean and even-keel through two periods. Any lingering fire from Thursday’s contest was dormant, despite the compete level and general feistiness displayed in that game.
Even with a scarce crowd, the T-Mobile Arena was jumping around to the House of Pain hit, as the teams took the ice for the third period. Twenty minutes to decide a winner, one goal separating the two. The tension was palpable.
Alex Tuch’s backchecking speed negated a Kevin Fiala breakaway chance just a minute and change into the period. Tuch’s size and quickness are a rare combo and a real treat to watch in action.
A Cody Glass trip five minutes into the final period gave the Wild a huge chance to even up the score. They capitalized with the tying PPG, on a quick transition play to Kirill Kaprizov.
Joel Eriksson Ek picked up a loose puck off a line change and found Kaprizov wide open on the far side post. A slam dunk goal for the Wild’s young phenom and a disappointing skate to the bench for the Golden Knights’ first-ever entry draft pick.
Less than a minute later, Eriksson Ek scored a goal of his own, assisted by Jordan Greenway and Ryan Suter. Just like that the Golden Knights’ lead of approximately 40 minutes was erased and reversed.
A big energy shift from Keegan Kolesar, William Carrier, and Tuch helped get the crowd and the home team back in the game. They took advantage of the boost, with Marchessault drawing a slashing minor on Greenway. Unfortunately for them, a good kill by the Wild preserved the visitors’ lead.
An ill-timed Nosek high-sticking penalty put the home team behind the eight ball with 4:16 left on the game clock. Although they were down a goal and a player, the Golden Knights started the PK with good offensive pressure. They killed the penalty and had just over two minutes to manifest a tying goal.
With 1:59 left and an offensive zone faceoff, Pete DeBoer pulled Fleury for the extra attacker. It was full steam ahead, with Alex Pietrangelo and Theodore manning the blue line and Stone, Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Max Pacioretty up front.
Minnesota was able to win the final faceoff and get the puck deep into the Golden Knights’ zone. A good stall in the corner ticked the final seconds off the clock, sticking the Golden Knights with their third-straight loss (0-2-1), a first for DeBoer in Vegas.
Overall the team played well, while it wasn’t one of the impressive and dominating performances they’ve become accustomed to. They pushed the pace, especially in the third, once they lost their lead.
These are the types of efforts a coach likes to see, but nonetheless they’ll need to bounce back. They’ll be back in action on Monday and Wednesday, with a two road game road set against the St. Louis Blues. They’re battling injuries to Ryan Reaves, Zach Whitecloud, a Chandler Stephenson suspension, and now a three game skid but even then, it’s hard to count this Vegas team out.
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