The Golden Knights’ 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Blue Jackets wasn’t the biggest loss they suffered Tuesday night in Columbus.
Late in the second period forward Reilly Smith was crushed against the boards by Blue Jackets’ defenseman David Savard, and got up favoring his left side. Smith skated to the bench, immediately headed to the locker room and didn’t return in the third period.
Vegas’ first line of Smith, William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault leads the NHL with 47 goals together -- 10 goals more than the second-highest scoring line in Toronto. The trio have played more minutes with each other than any forward line in the league.
Smith is second on the team with 60 points (22 goals and 38 assists) and if he misses significant time it will be tough to fill his spot in the lineup. Not only does he play big minutes on the first line, but also contributes on the power play and penalty kill units.
Columbus jumped out to an early 1-0 lead over Vegas when leading-scorer Artemi Panarin put the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury only 16 seconds into the game.
The Golden Knights tied it in the second period with Erik Haula’s 24th goal of the season.
The Blue Jackets reclaimed the lead with back-to-back goals by Zach Werenski and Ian Cole to end the middle frame.
From there Columbus shut the Golden Knights down, and added an empty net goal late to make it 4-1.
The loss drops Vegas to 1-1 on the current road trip. The Golden Knights now head to Detroit for a Thursday night game against the Red Wings, but an injury update on Reilly Smith could be the most important news in the coming days.
Blue Jackets lead 3-1 after two periods
The Golden Knights trail 3-1 after two periods in Columbus despite outshooting the Blue Jackets 28-14.
Marc-Andre Fleury has struggled in net, allowing three goals on only 14 shots on goal to this point.
Erik Haula tied the game 1-1 early in the second period after receiving a good pass from David Perron while Alex Tuch screened Columbus goalie Joonas Korpisalo. The assist gives Perron a team-high 44 on the season.
Columbus regained the lead when Artemi Panarin fed Zack Werenski in the slot, and Werenski crushed a one-timer past Fleury into the top of the net. The Blue Jackets then extended their lead with Ian Cole’s fourth goal of the season.
Korpisalo has saved 27-of-28 shots for Columbus. The Blue Jackets are 20-3-2 when leading after two periods.
Blue Jackets lead 1-0 after one period
It didn’t take the Columbus Blue Jackets long to set off their famous goal cannon in the game against the Golden Knights.
The old revolutionary war cannon sits inside Nationwide Arena and fire when the Blue Jackets score, which was only 16 seconds into Tuesday’s contest.
Columbus forward Artemi Panarin lifted the puck over Marc-Andre Fleury to give the Blue Jackets an early 1-0 lead. It was Panarin’s team-high 21st goal of the season and has Columbus up 1-0 after one period of play.
Minutes later Pierre-Luc Dubois beat Fleury again with a hard wrist shot that deflected off the crossbar and into the net, but it was taken off the board following an offsides challenge by coach Gerard Gallant.
Golden Knights’ video coach Tommy Cruz recognized Cam Atkinson entered the offensive zone milliseconds before the puck and alerted the Vegas bench.
Offensively the Golden Knights created a few chances, but backup goaltender Joonas Korpisalo played well and saved all 15 shots he faced in the first period.
The Golden Knights are in Columbus, Ohio, today where they take on a desperate Blue Jackets team.
With only 16 games remaining in the regular season, the Blue Jackets are clinging to the final wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. At 71 points, they sit only one point above the Florida Panthers and two above the Carolina Hurricanes.
Vegas’ situation isn’t as dire. Its lead in the Pacific Division has stretched back to 10 points over the San Jose Sharks, with a game in hand. If the Golden Knights are to leave Columbus with a win, they’ll have to find a way to match the Blue Jackets’ intensity.
They’ll get a boost from feisty forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who is returning to the lineup after missing the last seven games with an upper body injury. Bellemare is a major contributor on the penalty kill, averaging more shorthanded time on ice than any forward on the roster, and centers the fourth line that has struggled lately in his absence.
Bellemare has only five goals and eight assists this season but plays solid defensively and leads all Vegas forwards with 51 blocked shots.
The Golden Knights will also catch a break in goal, as Joonas Korpisalo will get the start for Columbus in place of Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who is out with an illness.
Korpisalo has lost three straight starts and five of his last seven. The 23-year-old has surrendered 14 goals in his last three appearances with a save percentage of only .858.
Marc-Andre Fleury will make his 34th start of the year for the Golden Knights, hoping to continue what has been statistically the best season of his 14-year NHL career. Fleury’s .928 save percentage and 2.24 goals against average are both career bests.
The first time these teams met, Jan. 23 in Las Vegas, the Golden Knights topped the Blue Jackets 6-3.
Prediction: Golden Knights 4, Blue Jackets 1
Season record for predictions: 33-21
Puck drops: 4 p.m.
Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus
Radio: Fox Sports 1340 AM and 98.9 FM
TV: AT&T SportsNet (DirecTV 684, Cox 1313, CenturyLink Prism 1760)
Betting line: Golden Knights minus-125, Total 6 minus-125 to the under
Golden Knights (42-18-5) (18-11-3 away)
Coach: Gerard Gallant
Goal leader: William Karlsson (35)
Assist leader: Jonathan Marchessault and David Perron (43)
Expected goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury (22-8-3, 2.24 goals against average)
Columbus Blue Jackets (21-31-10) (7-18-5 away)
Coach: John Tortorella
Goal leader: Artemi Panarin (20)
Assist leader: Artemi Panarin (35)
Expected goalie: Joonas Korpisalo (5-7-0, 3.30 goals against average)
Golden Knights game day roster
Forwards (12): Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ryan Carpenter, Cody Eakin, Erik Haula, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Tomas Nosek, David Perron, Ryan Reaves, Reilly Smith, Tomas Tatar and Alex Tuch.
Defensemen (6): Deryk Engelland, Brad Hunt, Brayden McNabb, Jon Merrill, Colin Miller, Shea Theodore.
Goalies (2): Marc-Andre Fleury and Maxime Lagace