Special teams letdown sends Golden Knights to shutout loss at Wild

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Jim Mone / AP

Minnesota Wild’s Jared Spurgeon, left, celebrates his power play goal off Vegas Golden Knights’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, right, in the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn. Landing in the net is Golden Knights’ Nick Holden.

Tue, Feb 11, 2020 (8:20 p.m.)

Peter DeBoer said he wanted the Golden Knights to play more at 5-on-5. The Vegas coach pointed to their last game and how they were the better team at even strength, and how it started slipping away when they started taking penalties.

Penalties were the Golden Knights’ undoing on Tuesday. They allowed three power-play goals while going scoreless in four power-play tries, falling to the Minnesota Wild 4-0 at Xcel Energy Center.

The Golden Knights gave up two power-play goals in the first period, then another in the second. It was the third time this season they have been shut out, and first on the road.

Marc-Andre Fleury started in net for Vegas and gave up four goals on 20 shots. Malcolm Subban took over in the third, stopping all five shots sent his way.

Here are three takeaways from the loss.

Not-so-special teams

In the first eight games under DeBoer, it looked like the penalty-killing might be solved. Vegas killed 16 of its first 18 penalties with DeBoer as coach (88.9% success rate), but has only killed five of 12 in the four games since (41.7%). They went 2-for-5 short-handed against Minnesota.

The power play hasn’t been good in over a month now. Under DeBoer the Golden Knights have converted on just three of their 26 chances with the extra man, a success rate of 11.5%. For comparison, the Anaheim Ducks have the worst power play this season at 14.4%.

“We had opportunities to get back in and our power play was struggling. We weren’t making smart plays with the puck, we weren’t having any poise with it and we made it easy on them,” forward Reilly Smith told AT&T SportsNet. “They don't have a great penalty kill numbers-wise and we made them look like they were top-five in the league tonight.”

He’s right. The Wild’s 73.7% penalty-kill success coming into the game was worst in the league.

First-period woes

The Golden Knights put themselves in an early hole against the Wild, going down 2-0 after 20 minutes. It’s those first 20 minutes that have been problematic for the Golden Knights — they have now allowed 62 goals in the opening period, the most of any team in the league.

And when the Golden Knights trail after one period, they’re in trouble. They are 5-13-2 when they are behind going into the second.

Tuesday’s game was particularly painful in the first period. Vegas had a power play 30 seconds into the game, on which it did not generate a shot on goal. Then on Minnesota’s power play, Brayden McNabb cleared the puck from the goal crease after the Wild thought they scored, and Reilly Smith had a short-handed breakaway attempt.

It was denied, and the Wild scored before the power play ended. They scored again on their next one too for a 2-0 lead.

“We had maybe half our guys competing and ready to play in tonight’s game,” forward Mark Stone told AT&T SportsNet. “It was just a stinker. We laid an egg."

A familiar nemesis

Tuesday’s loss was the Golden Knights’ sixth in regulation against the Wild, the most to any team in the league. The Golden Knights are 2-6-0 all-time against Minnesota, with one of those wins coming in a shootout last season.

The Golden Knights average 1.88 goals per game against the Wild, the only team against which Vegas averages fewer than 2.00 goals per game.

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