Karl B. DeBlaker / AP
Friday, Feb. 1, 2019 | 7:45 p.m.
Shea Theodore had one of his finest games of the season. The rest of the Golden Knights did not.
Theodore had both Vegas goals, but the Carolina Hurricanes were the better team in nearly every facet Friday, and the visiting Golden Knights fell 5-2 at PNC Arena.
The Golden Knights were outshot 32-25 and managed just a 43.2 Corsi for percentage at 5-on-5. Theodore opened the scoring at 5:01 of the first, then tied it 2-2 at 17:47 of the second. But Carolina answered back 36 seconds later and the Golden Knights never recovered.
The Golden Knights had five shots on goal in the third period. It was their third loss in a row.
“We were good for 20 minutes of the game and that’s about it,” defenseman Nate Schmidt told AT&T SportsNet. “We just didn’t have it for the full game tonight.
“We just didn’t play well enough to win the game.”
Maxime Lagace started in net for Vegas and allowed four goals on 31 shots, and Carolina added an empty-netter.
Here are three takeaways from the loss:
Theo finds the net
Theodore scored in the ways the Golden Knights would most like to see from him. He blasted a one-timer on the power play in the first period, then jumped into the play and whizzed one off the far-side post in the second.
Coming into the game at 17.9 percent, the Golden Knights’ power play ranked 20th in the league, and only four of their 28 goals had come from a defenseman. Theodore had two of the them, then added a third with Friday’s tally, his second such goal in four games.
The fourth line helped out in the second period, taking Ryan Reaves’ feed and scoring past a Pierre-Edouard Bellemare screen. Getting blue-line scoring will be big for the Golden Knights the rest of the season, and Theodore will be leaned on heavily.
Theodore now has eight goals on the season, a career-best.
Puck luck in Carolina
Going into the game, the Hurricanes led the NHL with 35.8 shots on goal per game, and Vegas was fourth at 33.7. The difference is that the Golden Knights have struggled to make their shots matter, scoring only 2.78 goals per game, sixth-worst in the league. Their PDO, the sum of their shooting and save percentage, is 97.9, second-worst in the league, indicating they have been pretty unlucky.
The home team had some puck luck Friday, benefiting from a poor Lagace decision to poke-check the puck on their second goal, then seeing Sebastian Aho’s third-period goal beat Lagace on a tough-angle back-hander.
It’s not to say Carolina shouldn’t have scored those goals, rather to show that in a long hockey season, sometimes you catch a few breaks, particularly if regression to the mean is inevitable. And Carolina was owed a few lucky bounces.
“They capitalized on some opportunities,” Theodore said to AT&T SportsNet. “Overall we just have to be a little bit better.”
Reilly Smith not an instant cure
The top line has not had the magic it had last year, and Reilly Smith’s return from injured reserve did not immediately spark what was missing.
Smith, William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault were on the ice for three of Carolina’s goals and produced a 35.7 Corsi for percentage as a unit, worst among Vegas’ forward lines.
Midway through the third, Smith moved to the third line with Brandon Pirri and Cody Eakin, and Valentin Zykov hopped up with Karlsson and Marchessault. Smith did not return to the top line, and Zykov helped the top line to a 5-0 edge in 5-on-5 shot attempts.