The Vegas Golden Knights had two losses on Thursday night; one on the ice, and one on their heads.
The Golden Knights dropped their first home game in regulation, 1-0 to the Anaheim Ducks at T-Mobile Arena on Thursday.
It was also the night Vegas unveiled its gold chrome helmets. Between the Henderson Silver Knights’ silver chrome domes and these weird hats, it’s clear the fix is in for Daft Punk to have an intermission concert once fans are allowed in the building.
That would be more exciting than the performance the Golden Knights had on this night. They wasted an outstanding 27-save performance from Marc-Andre Fleury (more on that later) for his first loss in six starts.
The bigger story is that Fleury even started at all. Robin Lehner was expected to start, but sustained an upper-body injury at morning skate and was not able to go. Oscar Dansk served as the backup.
“Unfortunate to waste an effort like that. He was our best player,” said coach Pete DeBoer. “Considering the circumstances, he got the call to go in late tonight, it was a great effort by him. I know the guys feel like they let him down tonight.”
On to the grades.
A lot of credit goes to Anaheim for blocking a whopping 25 shots. The Golden Knights out-attempted the Ducks 49-44, but Vegas spent more time throwing shots at Ducks skaters than the goalie.
John Gibson had a 21-save shutout, but he only saw three high-danger chances. Anaheim played a sound defensive game, one much more in-tune than allowing five goals on Tuesday. The top line of Mark Stone, Chandler Stephenson and Max Pacioretty allowed 13 chances while generating only eight.
“I don’t know if it was much them as it was. We didn’t possess the puck a lot, turned it over a lot,” Stone said. “Just didn’t have enough jump to get pucks back and didn’t have a lot of o-zone time because of it.”
It’s a rare sight to see the Golden Knights’ offense shrivel up like that. Even in their 2-1 win Jan. 16 against Anaheim, they did a good job getting to Gibson before finally breaking through late in the third period.
The fact remains that the Golden Knights have scored one goal in their last four periods. Whether it be no practice Wednesday due to Tomas Nosek going into COVID-19 protocol or just a dry spell, Thursday was an off night at the office.
Thursday saw the return of Alex Pietrangelo to the lineup. It was the defenseman’s first game since Jan. 26 before going into COVID protocol two days later.
Pietrangelo had two shots on goal during a game-high 26:28 in his first game action in two weeks. Pietrangelo was back on the top pair with Alec Martinez.
Martinez’ usual defense partner, Shea Theodore, is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
“I skated the last four, five days, but other than that I was just home resting,” Pietrangelo said. “It was a long 10 days, but it’s nice to get back in the mix here, get playing again. It’s not fun when you’re sitting out.”
Pietrangelo and Martinez were on the ice for 14 shots while allowing 10. One of those shots was the game’s only goal from Max Comtois late in the third period. No one, not even Vegas’ top pair, reacted quick enough to catch Comtois. The Ducks forward has four goals in four games against Vegas this season.
As for the other pairs, Nic Hague and Zach Whitecloud (12-12) were fine. Dylan Coghlan and Nick Holden (17-12) had another solid game as the third pair. Coghlan, in particular, played his best game as an NHL player. He’s looking comfortable in his own zone and is starting to show flashes of a rounded offensive game. If he gets more opportunities to let one go from the point, it’ll be an exciting time to see the repertoire at its fullest.
But there’s no denying the Golden Knights miss Theodore’s offense and his skating. Missing a point-per-game defenseman hurts, but it’s how much he opens the ice up with his skill and ability. It’s why he’s valued as much on 5-on-5 as he is on the power play.
“He’s an elite defenseman. He’s a guy that can break down the other team with his feet and legs,” DeBoer said. “In a game like tonight that’s a 0-0 game going into the third, there’s not a lot of room out there. Those type of guys with individual ability can break down a team defensively. We miss him, but we’ve had really good players in our lineup miss time, and that’s going to happen going forward.”
Where do we begin?
Marc-Andre Fleury was spectacular. He’s been magnificent all season. If the Golden Knights found a way to score a goal or two, we’d be talking about Fleury’s third 6-0-0 start of his illustrious career.
Alas, it was all for naught.
Goalie coach Mike Rosati told Fleury before coming to the rink that he would be starting. It was supposed to be Lehner’s turn in the crease, continuing the goalie rotation that has proven successful to this point.
At the latest, I’d expect Fleury to play Saturday at San Jose with a possible return for Lehner at home Sunday against Colorado.
But enough of the legalities. Let’s talk about this.
Let’s just revel in the fact that this man is 36 years old, making saves like this. The AT&T game broadcast replayed the clip of his epic save against Toronto last November. This wasn’t full-on Superman coming out of the phone booth like that one, but still an absurd display of his athleticism.
Isac Lundestrom is likely seeing nightmares of Fleury.
“I knew I was kind of screwed on that one,” Fleury said. “Went around my poke check. Hopefully that scared him a little bit, but put my arm back there, trying to cover a little something, and got a little lucky.”
It’s that kind of save that should win games most nights. Unfortunately for Fleury, he did all he could for a sixth win on this night. His teammates, however, did not.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
The Golden Knights’ power play was good for three games. Then, it went back to bad.
It’s like going on the Incredicoaster three straight times and getting stuck on the giant loop the fourth time.
Much like their 5-on-5 play, the Golden Knights struggled heavily at generating anything with the man advantage. Entering through the neutral zone, much like before their two-week hiatus, was a problem yet again.
The penalty kill, once again, looked elite in killing both Anaheim penalties.
FASHION SENSE: F-
Look, I get it. It’s a franchise built on innovation.
The Golden Knights wanted the first metallic-gold sweater ever. They made it happen. Vegas went bold with the red sweaters honoring Las Vegas hockey’s past. They did it.
But these gold helmets … no, sir. Not in this lexicon.
The Henderson Silver Knights went with the silver chrome lids, and it being so new, it has the chance to grow on me. With these gold helmets, it was one giant conglomerate of Khal Drogo putting the Golden Crown on Viserys.
— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) February 12, 2021
The Golden Knights are 0-1 with gold helmets. That’s really the underlying message I’m trying to get across.
Danny Webster covers the Vegas Golden Knights for Vegas Hockey Now. Follow him on Twitter @DannyWebster21.