You have to have luck in hockey in order to be successful. So far this season, the Golden Knights have been rather unlucky. In the season opener, the Knights hit three posts/crossbars in a game that finished 5-2. The tough luck on the road continued into Minnesota and Buffalo, although the Golden Knights managed a split in their first two road games of the season, beating Minnesota in a shootout before falling to Buffalo in a rare afternoon game.
The Golden Knights (1-2) return to action tonight in a showdown with their Stanley Cup Final nemesis, the reigning NHL champion Washington Capitals.
It was starting to look like the tough breaks were going to hurt the Golden Knights again Saturday night in Minnesota when the Knights outshot Minnesota 42-30, hit multiple posts, and Wild goaltender Devin Dubnyk was flat out robbing the Knights. In a 1-0 game with Vegas down a goal late and Fleury pulled for the extra skater, Pacioretty happened.
The free agent acquisition fired home a shot from Jonathan Marchessault and beat Dubnyyk clean with 1:30 left in the game. Finally, some puck luck. The game would push to overtime where Marc-Andre Fleury did his usual, acrobatic saves to keep Vegas in the game. Overtime wasn’t enough to solve these two prolific goaltenders, so it would have to be settled in a shootout. With each team’s players stopped in the first two rounds, up steps former Minnesota Wild player, Erik Haula.
Haula made no mistake, and beat his former teammate Dubnyk to earn Vegas’s first win of the season. Vegas improved to 1-1. Pacioretty said after the game how the atmosphere in the locker room is unlike anything he has ever been apart of. Even though they were down late, they didn’t get down on themselves and they stayed patient with their process.
With most of the country off from school and work on a holiday this last Monday, The Knights would face off against the Buffalo Sabres for an afternoon special. Vegas would get some quality chances early, but this game has a similar unfortunate feel to the first game of the season.
If you give playmakers enough chances, they will make you pay. That is exactly what happened when Jack Eichel, young superstar in the making and captain for the Sabres, scored on a one-timing slap shot on the power play.
If you looked at the stat-line from this game, you’d probably be confused on how Vegas lost. Vegas had 20 more shots on goal (37-17), they were better in the face off circle 65 percent to 35 percent, they threw more hits 29-17, and each team had the same amount of power plays. So what happened?
Unfortunately it is not always the number of chances you get, it is what you make of them, and Buffalo did just that. Eichel was left all alone in front of the net after a defensive miscue, and he roofs a backhander into the net. Fleury had no chance. Haula would eventually break through for Vegas shortly after, but a pair of goals in less than two minutes apart from the Sabres would eventually do Vegas in.
Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant juggled his bottom two lines because they were getting outplayed, but it was to no avail. Vegas would eventually get one goal back in the middle of the third period by Jonathan Marchessault, who sniped home a shot from the top of the circle to make it 4-2. However, Vegas did not get many quality chances. They were stood up at the blue line, had trouble with their outlet passes, and couldn’t get consistent pressure on the Buffalo goaltender.
Even though they put on more shots on goal, the overwhelming majority of them were not quality scoring chances. Simply put, Buffalo wanted that game more than Vegas. Coach Gallant, looking agitated and annoyed in the post-game presser, said the following:
"The first half (of the game) I thought we were sound asleep." -Gallant
— SinBin.vegas (@SinBinVegas) October 8, 2018
It is not time to worry, Golden Knights fans. Adversity is good for a team, and if you remember last season, they absolutely faced their fair share. They are outshooting their opponents through the first three games, they just aren’t going in the net.
Vegas will look to keep trusting the process Wednesday night when they face off against the team that ruined the Cinderella story last season, the Washington Capitals (5 pm PST, NBCSN).