Published Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 | 3:04 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 | 9:57 p.m.
Justin Emerson and Case Keefer look ahead to the Golden Knights' upcoming homestand after a four-game road trip out of the All-Star break. They scout the players not only on the ice, but also on the sand amid reports of a beach volleyball matchup being part of the team's Floridian stretch.
Those who subscribe to the old theory of a team not being at their best when they return home from a road trip surely weren’t surprised by the action Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
The Vegas Golden Knights had a mostly lethargic performance in a 4-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets to snap a two-game win streak. Prolonged offensive outages in the opening two periods and a number of defensive and goaltending mistakes proved too much to overcome as the Blue Jackets’ Cam Atkinson scored a pair of goals in the final six minutes.
Columbus controlled most of the action and piled up a commanding edge in shots on goal — finishing with a 33-23 margin — but looked to be in trouble with 10 minutes to go in the game. Vegas came out sharp in the third period, peppering Columbus with shots and finally broke through when Cody Eakin scored from the slot off of a pass from Pierre-Eduouard Bellemare.
It wouldn’t be enough. A rough night for Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who had 29 saves, continued when he allowed Atkinson to loft a rebound off of his own miss into the net.
Atkinson then scored again less than three minutes later at the start of a power play caused by a slashing call on Paul Stastny. Fleury also lost sight of the puck on a deflected first-period goal from Josh Anderson, and got caught behind the net on a second-period score from Artemi Panarin.
Vegas led 2-1 at the first intermission off of goals from defensemen Nate Schmidt and Jon Merrill, the latter coming shorthanded. But the Golden Knights got only three shots on goal in the second period, and allowed the Blue Jackets to climb back in the game.
Columbus stayed within striking range until taking advantage of late opportunities. Vegas returns to action at home Tuesday night against Arizona.
Stay tuned to lasvegasssun.com later for more coverage.
Golden Knights, Blue Jackets knotted up at two goals apiece after second period
Marc-Andre Fleury got caught.
Vegas’ goalie retreated behind his net to retrieve a loose puck only to see it hit off the boards right to Columbus’ Artemi Panarin in front of the crease. Panarin had what was likely his easiest of 21 goals this season as he slapped the puck into an empty net.
The goal broke a near 18-minute scoreless stretch to tie the game at 2-2 going into the second intermission. It wasn’t the strongest second period for Vegas.
The Golden Knights had only three shots on goal, and sit at a 22-12 deficit to the Blue Jackets overall on the night.
Golden Knights lead Blue Jackets 2-1 at the end of the first period
Pucks find the wildest ways into the net.
The early first between the Vegas Golden Knights and Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at T-Mobile Arena was a reminder of that age-old hockey proverb. Both teams scored in the opening five minutes but neither did so cleanly.
Vegas earned a more traditional goal shortly before the intermission to head to the locker room with a 2-1 lead over the Blue Jackets.
The Blue Jackets lit up the scoreboard first when a rebound deflected off of second-line winger Josh Anderson and past Marc-Andre Fleury four minutes into the game. Thirty-two seconds later, the Golden Knights tied it up with some of their own good fortune in the form of puck trajectory.
Defenseman Nate Schmidt attempted to make a pass to the side of the net that instead hit off of a Blue Jacket and past Sergei Bobrovsky. Fleury and Bobrovsky settled down from there and made several big saves before the Golden Knights took the lead on a shorthanded score from Jon Merrill.
The defenseman got his second goal of the year when he fired a rebound past Bobrovsky from about 10 feet out.
Fans heading to games at T-Mobile Arena last season grew to expect to see something spectacular on a nightly basis from the Vegas Golden Knights’ first line.
That expectation may be returning as the Golden Knights round into the final two months of their second regular season. The NHL’s most productive line from a year ago is reunited with winger Reilly Smith coming off of injured reserve and getting back to full health to join Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson in Thursday’s 4-3 win at Detroit.
All eyes will be on the trio as they look to continue to show off their acclaimed chemistry at 7 p.m. tonight at T-Mobile Arena against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Marchessault has been particularly hot, as he scored two goals against the Red Wings and set up a game-tying goal in an eventual 3-2 shootout win over league-leading Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Karlsson also has three points in the last two games (two assists and a goal).
Vegas' top two goal-scorers could be boosted by Smith’s presumed return to the first line full time. Players like Valentin Zykov, who’s expected to play on the third line tonight, and Brandon Pirri, expected to be a healthy scratch, filled in admirably in Smith’s absence.
But if Vegas wants to be at its best in time for the playoffs, it’s likely going to take Smith’s steadiness to raise the games of Marchessault and Karlsson.
They’ll have a tall task tonight in trying to crack one of the NHL’s top goalies in Sergei Bobrovsky, who shut out Vegas 1-0 in Columbus earlier in the season. The Blue Jackets are one of the more talented teams in the league, but whispers of uneasiness are circulating with Bobrovsky and points leader Artemi Panarin reportedly on their way out at the end of the season.
The Golden Knights have yet to encounter that type of tension, as the first line especially credited a tight-knit nature for last year’s run to the Stanley Cup Final. Tonight’s game will be a chance to prove it still exists.
Keefer’s Prediction: Golden Knights 2, Blue Jackets 1
Season record for predictions: Keefer 5-4, Emerson 12-7
TV: AT&T Sports Net (DirecTV 68, Cox 1313, CenturyLink 1760)
Radio: Fox Sports 1340 AM and 98.9 FM
Betting line: Golden Knights minus-170, Blue Jackets plus-150; over/under: 6 (minus-130, plus-110)
Golden Knights (31-21-4) (16-6-3 home)
Coach: Gerard Gallant (second season)
Points leader: Alex Tuch (40)
Goals leader: Jonathan Marchessault (19)
Assists leader: Alex Tuch (24)
Expected goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury (2.48 gaa, .912 save percentage)
Blue Jackets (30-20-3) (16-9-1 road)
Coach: John Tortorella (fourth season)
Points leader: Artemi Panarin (60)
Goals leader: Cam Atkinson (29)
Assists leader: Artemi Panarin (40)
Expected goalie: Sergei Bobrovsky (2.95 gaa, .901 save percentage)
Golden Knights expected lineup
Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Brandon Pirri, Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny, Alex Tuch, Valentin Zykov, Cody Eakin, William Carrier, Tomas Nosek, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ryan Reaves
Brayden McNabb, Nate Schmidt, Shea Theodore, Deryk Engelland, Jon Merrill, Colin Miller
Marc-Andre Fleury, Malcolm Subban