Las Vegas Sun

December 10, 2018

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Golden Knights ‘sound asleep’ in loss to Sabres ahead of Stanley Cup rematch

Vegas falls to 1-2 early in season

Fleury

Jeffrey T. Barnes / AP

Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel passes the puck in front of Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, in Buffalo, N.Y.

Even after losses during the Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural season, coach Gerard Gallant usually appeared to stay even-keeled.

That wasn’t the case after Vegas fell 4-2 Monday afternoon in Buffalo, a second loss in its first three games. Gallant was visibly frustrated with the Golden Knights’ performance while speaking to reporters after the game in a media conference aired on AT&T Sports Net.

“First half of the game, I thought we were sound asleep,” Gallant said.

The Golden Knights bounced back from a similarly disappointing season opener last week to win their second game of the year on Saturday. They’ll need to repeat the pattern Wednesday when they arrive in Washington D.C. to face the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Although the Capitals beat the Golden Knights in four straight games in June to win the title, Jonathan Marchessault said the memory should not be on the team’s mind. They instead need to focus on issues that have plagued them early in the season.

“What happened last year is disappointing; we need to stop talking about last year also,” Marchessault said. “It’s probably the problem right now is teams are going to be ready for us.”

The Sabres looked ready, never trailing after their 21-year-old captain Jack Eichel ripped a one-timer past Marc-Andre Fleury on a power play at 14:31 of the first period.

Eichel added a second goal early less than five minutes into the second period off of a pass from Sam Reinhart when he was left alone in front of the net. Aside from falling into the 2-0 hole, the defeat wasn’t unlike last Thursday’s 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

A rough second-period stretch again doomed Vegas, as Buffalo scored on its first three shots on goal to go up 4-1. Fleury wasn’t perfect but also appeared for the second time, “left out to dry,” as Max Pacioretty described after the Flyers’ loss.

Like Eichel’s second goal, Jason Pominville was uncovered in front of Fleury ahead of the final goal during Buffalo’s rally.

“You’ve got to be mentally sharp,” Gallant said. “We weren’t mentally sharp. There were mental lapses in the d-zone and guys left open. You can’t blame Fleury for either of the goals, when a guy is that close to the net and breaks away from the slot, he’s going to score.”

Vegas woke up once it fell into the three-goal deficit, but it was too late and Sabres goalie Carter Hutton played too well. Hutton recorded 35 saves, including stopping a handful of decent looks from Marchessault.

Marchessault finally scored on his fifth shot when he went over the glove of Hutton from the slot.

“I had two two-on-ones and not even one shot on net so definitely unacceptable for me,” Marchessault graded his performance. “I think as a leader on this team, you need to show an example and be ready right off the bat.”

Erik Haula, who won Saturday’s game for the Golden Knights with a shootout goal versus the Wild, scored Vegas’ only other goal with a wrister off of passes from Marchessault and William Karlsson.

Vegas put up a 37-17 edge in shots on goal, but that didn’t help smooth anything over with Gallant.

“We didn’t play good enough to win the hockey game, I’d like to say, just because we got a lot of shots on goal” he said. “They were the better team and they were more committed to winning today and we didn’t show up good enough.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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