Like most teams, the Vegas Golden Knights try not to put too much stock into one game, especially when it’s the preseason opener.
As is usually the case, win or lose, there’s some good, some bad and some ugly that comes from a first game. The Knights opened their seven-game exhibition run Sunday at T-Mobile Arena where 17,077 showed up to see the Knights fall to the San Jose Sharks 4-2 on what was a crowded sports Sunday in Las Vegas.
The two teams provided a little extra action as they agreed to hold a shootout. The Sharks got the best of that as well, winning 2-1.
Earlier in the day, there was an NFL game down the street at Allegiant Stadium with the Raiders beating the Dolphins in overtime. Out at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Playoffs were in high gear with the South Point 400. Next door to the Knights’ City National Arena practice facility, the city’s Triple-A baseball team, the Aviators, were in action.
But hockey wrapped up a busy day. The building dubbed “The Fortress” was in midseason form in terms of loudness. Proof of vaccination was not required for admittance and though you were supposed to wear a mask or face covering, many opted not to once they were in their seats.
For newcomers like center Brett Howden, feeling the full effect of a Golden Knights home game experience was something he was glad to partake in.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I didn’t realize how loud it gets here. For a preseason game to have that kind of crowd and the kind of atmosphere was pretty surreal.”
The former New York Ranger knows loud from having played at Madison Square Garden. But things got quiet in the first period when Golden Knights captain Mark Stone took a puck to the side of his head off a deflection of Brayden McNabb’s shot from the point. Stone, who had just 3:05 of TOI, didn’t return.
“He took some stitches,” VGK coach Peter DeBoer said of Stone’s situation. “We held him out as a precaution. I don’t think it’s anything serious but you never know.”
McNabb and fellow defenseman Shea Theodore also didn’t finish the game with undisclosed injuries. DeBoer said he was waiting to hear from the team’s medical staff on their status. The team will take Monday off so he should have a better idea over the next 24 hours where things stand. It’s likely the trio will be held out of Tuesday’s home game vs. Colorado.
The Sharks, who sent part of their squad to Anaheim to play the Ducks, never lost the lead. They had a 2-0 second-period edge and even after Paul Cotter’s goal cut it to 2-1 three minutes into the period, the Sharks’ Adam Raska got it back 4 1/2 minutes later.
Logan Thompson, who was the AHL’s top goalie last season playing for the Henderson Silver Knights, was a victim of a porous defense and a lack of coverage by his forwards in his end. Three of the Sharks four goals came from the slot where no Vegas player was even in the vicinity to contest a shot.
“Definitely something to work on,” DeBoer said of the communication breakdowns in his team’s defensive end.
Thompson said he did O.K. in spots but needed to play better. He stopped 24 of the 28 shots he faced.
“I’ve got to make the stop on a couple of those,” he said of two of the four shots that eluded him.
But Sunday was about getting a look at a lot of new faces. Nolan Patrick, the former Philadelphia Flyers center who the Knights acquired through a trade with Nashville, thought he competed well and got more comfortable as the game went on.
He even had a spin on the team’s penalty kill, something that wasn’t planned.
“I thought we had some good looks,” Patrick said of the Vegas power play, which has been a major storyline of this camp after being so dismal during the playoffs. “We got one and I thought we moved it around pretty good.”
Evgenii Dadonov, who started the game on Patrick’s line with Mattias Janmark, had a couple of shots in his 16:13 stint. He also was on the ice for two of the Sharks goals.
“Overall, I thought our guys competed,” DeBoer said. “We did some good things for sure. And we did some things that we obviously need to work on.”