Saturday, March 23, 2019 | 10:30 p.m.
Justin Emerson and Case Keefer talk about the Vegas Golden Knights' continued success, and whether it's realistic to expect them to run through San Jose and Calgary in back-to-back playoff series.
It would be easy to assume the Golden Knights weren’t focused during Saturday’s game, or they were overlooking the lowly Red Wings or they didn’t want it badly enough.
The truth is over 82 games, outings like that happen. Vegas didn’t play well enough to win and the Red Wings did just enough, which helps explains why the Golden Knights were on the wrong end of a 3-2 overtime defeat at T-Mobile Arena.
“You’ve got to prepare the same way every night in this league, but we weren’t ready to play tonight,” Vegas defenseman Jon Merrill said. “They were flying around and we didn’t do a good job eliminating time and space in our zone.”
The Red Wings executed in ways that Vegas couldn’t counter. Detroit’s forecheck was hellacious, pinning the Golden Knights into their own end for extended stretches. Detroit had 11 of the first 12 shot attempts in the game, then had a similar stretch to start the third where Vegas allowed eight unanswered shot attempts.
Through two periods, the Red Wings — who finished only 28 of their 74 games with a positive Corsi — held a 32-29 advantage at 5-on-5.
“It was flat at the start of the game obviously, then there was a little bit of a lull in the second period again,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. “I didn’t think we played horrible, but I don’t think we had the energy or the jump.
“We’ve been pretty good for the last 10 or 11 and sometimes that happens.”
The third period was better for Vegas. It had a 19-10 Corsi advantage, but only managed a goal while short-handed on a terrific individual effort by Reilly Smith.
It liked the Golden Knights might steal one at that point. It seemed like there were so many games at the beginning of the season that went the other way and maybe the hockey gods owed Vegas one?
Nope. Detroit finished its own power play with a game-tying goal, then in overtime it was Smith who coughed up the puck leading to the Red Wings’ game-winner.
There were a few positives in the loss.
William Carrier looked like his old self in his first game in more than a month, generating a few scoring chances and laying a game-high 11 hits. Cody Eakin scored his career-best 20th goal of the season and Malcolm Subban made 27 saves. More important, a third-period switch moved Alex Tuch to a line with Ryan Reaves and Ryan Carpenter, and trio generated six 5-on-5 shot attempts while allowing just one.
The Golden Knights weren’t bad Saturday night. They played fine. The Red Wings were just a little better.
“It wasn’t like it was a bad game tonight,” Gallant said. “We just weren’t good enough to win.”