Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2018

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Blog: Golden Knights can’t fix problems against Penguins, lose third straight

Phil Kessel gets a hat trick with his first goals of the season

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Keith Srakocic / AP

Pittsburgh Penguins’ Phil Kessel, left, snaps a shot as Vegas Golden Knights’ Colin Miller (6) defends during a game Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Pittsburgh. Kessel scored on the play, his second of the period and third of the game.

Updated Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018 | 6:36 p.m.

After the first of three Phil Kessel goals Thursday night at PPG Paints Arena, Vegas Golden Knights goalie Malcolm Subban raised his arms for a split second as if to signal helplessness.

Subban appeared to catch himself and discontinue the motion, but maybe he should have let it linger.

It captured the mood of the Vegas Golden Knights as they lost their third straight game, a 4-2 setback to the Penguins. A lot of Vegas players are surely asking what they’re supposed to do after enduring another game where everything appeared to go against them.

Vegas outshot Pittsburgh 37-22 — a regular characteristic despite their early-season struggles — and appeared to be in control for the first 30 minutes of game time. Then some of the same recurring issues that have plagued the Golden Knights’ current road trip, which wraps up Saturday in Philadelphia, reared themselves again.

Vegas’ defense got over-aggressive twice in the final half of the second period, and Pittsburgh’s offense was there to take advantage both times — in practically identical fashion. On each instance, Kessel gathered a pass from Evgeni Malkin, sailed down the slot on a breakaway, and paralyzed Subban.

Less than a minute after Kessel’s third goal for a rare natural hat trick — with plenty of headwear thrown on the ice to show for it — Subban allowed another goal. Jake Guentzel ripped one past Subban, off the post and into the net with assists to Sidney Crosby and Jake Schultz.

Vegas had several chances to cut the deficit over the final 24 minutes but Penguins’ goalie Casey DeSmith outdueled Subban. DeSmith had 35 saves, including a highlight pair back-to-back to rob close-proximity attempts from William Carrier and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.

Reilly Smith eventually beat DeSmith for a goal late in the third period, with Jonathan Marchessault using his playmaking ability to find him open right by the net.

Vegas’ first goal came less than seven minutes into the game, when Marchessault also sparked the offense and made a tight pass to Tomas Nosek, who put the puck past DeSmith’s glove hand.

Kessel scored less than two minutes later off of a faceoff that obscured Subban’s vision and prompted his show of frustration. By the end of the night, all of the Golden Knights knew exactly how he felt.

Check back to lasvegassun.com later for more coverage.

Golden Knights down big at second intermission

It looks unlikely that Thursday will be the night the Vegas Golden Knights get themselves off the shined.

A disastrous second period in Pittsburgh has Vegas trailing 4-1 and 20 minutes away from falling to 1-4-1 on the year. The Golden Knights’ top defensive pairing of Brayden McNabb and Colin Miller had a pair of breakdowns where they got over-aggressive and allowed a Phil Kessel breakaway.

Evgeni Malkin assisted on both of Kessel’s goals, which he buried past Malcolm Subban to complete a hat trick. Subban was put in a bad situation for both goals, but arguably should have stopped the Penguins’ next score — a Jake Guentzel wrister off of a pass from Sidney Crosby less than a minute after Kessel’s scond goal.

The Pittsburgh fans began chanting, “Fleury” in hopes of seeing the former fan favorite in net, but so far, Coach Gerard Gallant has resisted making a change.

Golden Knights and Penguins locked up after first period

The Golden Knights unanimously expressed a desire to start faster tonight in Pittsburgh after they trailed following one period in each of their first four games.

They succeeded, but unfortunately for the Golden Knights, so did the Penguins.

Both teams have scored an early goal at PPG Paints Arena to make the score 1-1 after 20 minutes of play. Vegas failed to score on its 11th straight power play to start the season, but got a goal when Jonathan Marchessault threaded a pass between two defenders to Tomas Nosek, who pushed it through at 6:28 of the period.

The Penguins answered in less than two minutes when Evgeni Malkin won a faceoff that turned into a blistering slap shot from Phil Kessel. His vision obscured, Malcolm Subban couldn’t make the save.

Both backup goalies getting the start tonight played well. While Subban had eight stops, Penguins goalie Casey DeSmit racked up 11 saves.

Pre-game

In an early season short on bright spots, Malcolm Subban provided one.

The Vegas Golden Knights’ backup goalie, and presumed starter of the future, played extremely well after coach Gerard Gallant pulled Marc-Andre Fleury in the opener last Thursday. In his first action in six months, Subban stopped all nine shots he faced against the Philadelphia Flyers — a few of them high-danger scoring opportunities.

The Golden Knights will get a better look at Subban tonight as he starts for Fleury in the second night of a back-to-back against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a game scheduled to start at 4 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena.

“He had a great year for us last year,” Gallant said. “He battled hard. He won some real big games for us on the road last year, and he gets another opportunity.”

The 24-year-old Subban went 13-6-2 as the Golden Knights’ primary backup last year, holding down the spot while Fleury recovered from an early season concussion before succumbing to his own injury issues. He’ll be tasked with breaking a two-game losing streak after the Golden Knights fell by multiple goals at both Buffalo and Washington.

The crease isn’t the only place where the Golden Knights will look different in their third all-time meeting with the Penguins. One winger on the third line will be all new.

Vegas made a roster move before the game, recalling Tomas Hyka from the AHL affiliate Chicago Wolves. Hyka will fill the spot of Oscar Lindberg, a healthy scratch, in an effort to spark an offense that hasn’t generated many goals.

Vegas hasn’t scored more than twice in any game yet this season and has trailed at the end of the first period in every game.

“That’s one thing we need to be better at — be ready right off the bat,” forward Jonathan Marchessault said.

Teams are typically tired off of back-to-back games — especially one as challenging as taking on the last three combined Stanley Cup winners — but the Golden Knights are thankful for the quick turnaround. They want to put a rough first week behind them.

“That’s the lucky part of our sport,” Vegas forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. “We get to clean the night before the next night. We have a loss, but we have a chance to put it right away and put it behind us.”

Keefer’s Prediction: Penguins 5, Golden Knights 2

Season record for predictions: 1-1

Pick to score the Golden Knights’ first goal: Jonathan Marchessault

TV: AT&T Sports Net (DirecTV 684, Cox 1313, CenturyLink 1760)

Radio: Fox Sports 1340 AM and 98.9 FM

Betting line: Penguins minus-185, Golden Knights plus-165; over/under: 6.5 (minus-120, plus-110)

Golden Knights (1-3-0) (1-2-0 road)

Coach: Gerard Gallant (second season)

Goals leader: Jonathan Marchessault (2)

Assists leader: William Karlsson (3)

Expected goalie: Malcolm Subban (0.00 gaa, 1.000 save percentage)

Pittsburgh Penguins (1-1-0) (1-1-0 home)

Coach: Mike Sullivan (fourth season)

Goals leader: Kris Letang, Jake Guentzel (2)

Assists leader: Seven different players tied for lead (2)

Expected goalie: Casey DeSmith (2.40 gaa, .921 save percentage last season)

Golden Knights expected game day roster

Forwards (12): Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, William Carrier, Ryan Carpenter, Cody Eakin, Erik Haula, Tomas Hyka, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Tomas Nosek, Max Pacioretty, Ryan Reaves Reilly Smith

Defensemen (6): Deryk Engelland, Nick Holden, Brayden McNabb, John Merrill, Colin Miller, Shea Theodore

Goalies (2): Malcolm Subban and Marc-Andre Fleury

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

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