Justin Emerson and Case Keefer react to the first two weeks of the hockey season, which meant two wins for the Vegas Golden Knights over the San Jose Sharks. They examine all the reasons for success and effects of the early returns.
It was not a pretty night in hockey's other desert city for the Vegas Golden Knights.
They lost the special teams battle, they lost their goalie and they lost the game, 4-1 to the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on Thursday.
Concerning is the status of Malcolm Subban, who batted away 12 of 14 shots in a strong first period but did not return for the second. Marc-Andre Fleury finished the game, allowing two goals on 15 shots.
The Golden Knights led in shots on goal, 37-29, but 13 of those shots came on the power play, where they were 0-for-4.
The Coyotes scored first on a flukey goal at the 8-minute mark of the first, when Conor Garland's centering pass went off Nicolas Hague's skate and into the net. With 39 seconds left in the frame Nick Schmaltz scored on a great feed from Christian Dvorak to make it 2-0.
Shea Theodore scored for the Golden Knights with four seconds left in the first, his first of the season on a wrister from the circle. The Coyotes challenged for goaltender interference but were unsuccessful and Vegas started the second on the power play.
It was a scoreless power play for Vegas, but as Garland exited the box he collected a breakout pass and finished the goal on the first shot against Fleury to make it 3-1. Niklas Hjalmarson added Arizona's fourth goal on a point shot at the 18:28 mark of the second.
The Golden Knights fell to 2-2-0 on the season, with a home game against the Calgary Flames on Saturday.
Golden Knights lose Subban, deficit grows in second period
The Golden Knights lost their goalie and saw their deficit increase in the second period, and they went into the second intermission down 4-1 to the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on Thursday.
The start of the second period was a disaster for the Golden Knights. First, Malcolm Subban did not come out for the frame after a terrific first period, relieved by Marc-Andre Fleury. Then after the leftover power play from the first failed to score, Conor Garland came out of the box on a breakaway and scored his second of the game for the Coyotes to make it 3-1.
Through a period-plus, the Vegas defense looked out of whack. Arizona defenders were getting behind the visitors with open looks to the goal and the Coyotes controlled the game at 5-on-5. The Golden Knights led in shots on goal through two periods, 25-24, but trailed in 5-on-5 shot attempts, 34-20.
Even the power play couldn't help Vegas. When Arizona was called for too many men on the ice, the Golden Knights allowed another short-handed breakaway by the Coyotes. Fleury stopped it, but Arizona's aggressive penalty killed helped it stifle all four of Vegas' chances with the extra man.
Then to make matters worse, the Coyotes added a late-period goal for the second time of the night. This time it was a point blast from Niklas Hjalmarson through a screen to make it 4-1 with 1:32 left in the period.
Golden Knights trail after one
In three games this season, the Golden Knights have been the one to score early. Until Thursday, they had scored in the first seven minutes of every game so far.
This time though, the Golden Knights were the team to give up an early goal, a late goal and got one back, and trailed the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 after a period at Gila River Arena.
The Golden Knights had the first power play of the game and on it came the best early chance, but it came from Arizona. When Shea Theodore fell down at the blue line, it gave Michael Grabner, who led the NHL in short-handed goals last season, a breakaway to the net, but Malcolm Subban stood tall. Vegas had four shots on goal with the extra man, but did not score.
After that though, the Coyotes scored a weird one. Conor Garland back-handed the puck to the center and it bounced of Nicolas Hague's skate and into the net at the 8-minute mark of the first. It gave the Coyotes a 1-0 advantage, their first lead of the season.
The Vegas power play did everything but score in the first. Its second chance of the night resulted in five more shots, giving the Golden Knights 14 shots for the period, same as Arizona. Jonathan Marchessault and Brandon Pirri had three shots each.
It looked like the 1-0 lead would stand, but as the period was ending Arizona rookie Barrett Hayton rushed around Nick Holden to set up some offensive zone time for Arizona. Subban made a few saves but had no chance on a Nick Schmaltz tap-in on a saucer feed from Christian Dvorak to make it 2-0.
Then with four seconds left, the Golden Knights shifted the momentum of the game. Not only did Shea Theodore score to trim the lead to 2-1, but Arizona unsuccessfully challenged for goaltender interference to result in a delay of game minor. Vegas will have 1:55 of power-play time when the second period begins.
There’s something to be said about facing a desperate team, even this early in the season. The Arizona Coyotes went out and traded for forwards in the offseason trying to improve their scoring output, and so far they have one goal to show for it.
The Golden Knights at 7 p.m. at Gila River Arena will face an Arizona team that just missed the playoffs last year and are eager to get in this year. Arizona is also looking for its first win of the season.
“They’re going to come out and try to score some goals, they’ve been frustrated their first two games,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. “It’ll be a defensive game. They’ll play hard, they’ll work hard.”
The Coyotes were one of the best defensive teams in the league last year, allowing the eighth-fewest goals with an aggressive and effective penalty kill. They were also one of the worst offensive teams in the league, scoring the fifth-fewest.
Through two games, the Coyotes have allowed three goals but scored just one for a tough-luck 0-2-0 record. Arizona made one of the biggest moves in the offseason, acquiring forward Phil Kessel from Pittsburgh to bolster the offense. He’s lined up with Clayton Keller and Derek Stepan, and that line has generated more than a third of the team’s scoring chances.
Kessel has also had his success against Vegas, with five goals in four games, including a hat trick last season.
"He likes to have the puck on his stick and skate so if we can limit his skating a little bit and pressure him real quick when he has the puck, we'll be fine," Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault said.
But the Coyotes' calling card is their defense and goaltending. Darcy Kuemper burst onto the national scene last year with .925 save percentage and almost towed the Coyotes into the postseason. It earned him a top-five finish in the Vezina race and he has carried that into this season with a .945 save percentage after starting both of Arizona's games.
Kuemper will start tonight against Malcolm Subban, who will be making his first start of the season for Vegas.
Arizona plays a stout defensive system with a penalty kill that scored 16 times last year, second-best in the league. The Golden Knights know that the Coyotes aren’t going to light up the scoreboard often, but that falling behind could make a comeback a tall order.
“They improved a lot last year and they’re carrying it over this year,” Gallant said. “From top to bottom, they got a lot of depth in their defense. I like the look of their defense.”
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Radio: Fox Sports 1340 AM and 98.9 FM
Betting line: Golden Knights minus-120, Coyotes plus-105; over/under: 5.5 (minus-120, EVEN)
Golden Knights (2-1-0, 4 points) (1-0-0 road), t-third place, Pacific Division
Coach: Gerard Gallant (third season)
Points leader: Mark Stone (6)
Goals leaders: Reilly Smith (3)
Assists leaders: William Karlsson, Mark Stone (4)
Expected goalie: Malcolm Subban (first appearance of season)
Coyotes (0-2-0, 0 points) (0-1-0 home), t-seventh place, Pacific Division
Coach: Rick Tocchet (third season)
Points leaders: Clayton Keller, Phil Kessel, Derek Stepan (1)
Goals leaders: Derk Stepan (1)
Assists leaders: Clayton Keller, Phil Kessel (1)
Expected goalie: Darcy Kuemper (1.54 GAA, .945 save percentage)
Golden Knights expected lineup
Jonathan Marchessault—William Karlsson—Reilly Smith,
Max Pacioretty—Cody Glass—Mark Stone
Brandon Pirri—Paul Stastny—Valentin Zykov
William Carrier—Tomas Nosek—Ryan Reaves
Brayden McNabb—Shea Theodore
Jon Merrill—Nick Holden
Nicolas Hague—Deryk Engelland,
Malcolm Subban, Marc-Andre Fleury