Wednesday, March 31, 2021 | 11:32 p.m.
Maybe it was an omen when Ryan Reaves was a late scratch for the Golden Knights on Wednesday after participating in warmups that things weren’t going to go Vegas’ way.
The Golden Knights took the ice with 17 skaters and were down to 15 by the end of the game. They also surrendered a goal in the initial two minutes against the visiting Los Angeles Kings and could never recover in a rare home defeat, 4-2.
“It was one of those nights,” Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said. “You have to give them credit. They played with a real desperation to start the game that we didn’t match, which was disappointing.”
Reaves was scratched with a lower-body injury, then Chandler Stephenson was ejected late in the second period after an elbowing major. When Zach Whitecloud left the game with under seven minutes to go in the third, Vegas down three regulars.
“You don’t want to go down two forwards, you’d like to play 12 (forwards) and six (defensemen), but that’s the nature of the business,” captain Mark Stone said. “I don’t think that really impacted the game a ton.”
The Kings’ early goal marked the third consecutive game where Vegas has coughed up a goal in the first two minutes of the contest. The Kings added a second goal later in the period for a 2-0 advantage.
William Karlsson scored for Vegas near the halfway mark of the second period to trim the deficit to one, but the Golden Knights couldn’t get closer.
A goofy goal by Los Angeles followed by a partial breakaway put the Kings up 4-1, and Stephenson’s elbowing penalty sent Vegas to a five-minute penalty kill. Even after fending off Los Angeles’ power play and firing 16 shots in the third, a comeback wasn’t in the cards.
“There were points in the game where we could have gotten ourselves back into it, but tonight we fell down just a little too far,” Stone said. “We get a big goal and then we were so sloppy in the last 10 minutes of the second.”
Marc-Andre Fleury is beginning to come down to earth after an other-worldly start to the season. The two goals in the second period are ones he doesn’t typically allow, including losing the puck in his skates on Los Angeles’ third goal and misreading a poke-check attempt on the fifth.
It was the sixth time this season allowing four goals or more and fifth time in his last nine games. His save percentage sat at a league-best .943 on March 10, and dipped to .924 after allowing four goals on 30 shots Wednesday.
In his last five games, he has given up 18 goals and has a save percentage of .887.
“I think it’s part of the season,” DeBoer said. “And it’s not all on him. He’s had a little bit of a lack of support in a couple of those instances from our group.”
The loss was the Golden Knights’ first at home since fans were allowed back at T-Mobile Arena on March 1 and prevented them from the first perfect home month in franchise history. In December 2017 and February 2020 they went 7-0-1, but a win over the Kings on Wednesday would have capped March with a 7-0-0 home record.
It also dropped them out of first place for the first time since Feb. 22. With Colorado’s win Wednesday, the Avalanche leap-frogged Vegas in the standings, though the Golden Knights have a game in hand and still lead in points percentage.
The game also featured the return of defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who missed the prior 12 games with an injury. He played a team-high 22:49 of ice time with seven shots on goal and four blocked shots.
“I think it’s important as a player to be patient and understand that it’s going to take more than probably a couple shifts puck-wise to get going,” Pietrangelo said. “I’ve been around long enough to understand that those touches will take a few shifts to get back.”