The Vegas Golden Knights were unable to complete the comeback against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night in a 2-1 loss on the road, falling to 38-20-6. They are now tied with the Los Angeles Kings for first place in the Pacific Division with 82 points.
This was the second and final game between these two teams this season, with the Golden Knights defeating the Panthers on Jan. 12, in what turned out to be the last game that Mark Stone played since undergoing back surgery.
After a brutal start to the season for the Panthers, who won the Presidents’ Trophy last season, they find themselves fighting for a playoff spot as they are currently tied with the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres for fourth place in the Atlantic Division.
Matthew Tkachuk, who was acquired by the Panthers in a blockbuster deal with the Calgary Flames last summer, is having an incredible first season down in Sunrise. He’s currently seventh in league scoring with 81 points through 61 games, and is on pace to clear his previous career-high of 104 points that he set last season.
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While the Panthers’ season may not be going as planned, they can safely say they are the early frontrunner as the winner of the deal that sent Jonathan Huberdeau to Calgary. Huberdeau is on pace to put up just 16 goals and 56 points this season, which is 59 points less than what he put up last season with the Panthers when he broke the single-season record for assists by a left winger.
Golden Knights’ Offensive Slump
It was a tough first period for the Golden Knights, who were beaten 16-4 in scoring chances through the opening 20 minutes of play. The Panthers were able to break into the zone without being contested and had the majority of their chances come within ten feet of the net. Adin Hill put on yet another incredible performance and without him, things could have gotten ugly really quickly.
Despite Hill’s inspiring performance, stopping 31 of the 33 shots he faced, the Golden Knights weren’t able to back him up and ever really find their offensive game. Hill has quickly reclaimed the starting role with this performance as the goaltending core continues to deal with injuries, and even after the Golden Knights acquired Jonathan Quick at the trade deadline.
With the Panthers being the most penalized team in the NHL, the Golden Knights even had four opportunities with the man advantage and only converted once. The last time they had multiple power play goals in a game was all the way back on Dec. 21, 2022, against the Arizona Coyotes, and have gone 7/60 (11.6%) on the power play ever since.
Offensive production has never really been an issue for the Golden Knights when playing the Panthers in the past. They’ve put together a 6-3-1 record through their 10 all-time matchups and have averaged 3.7 goals per game in that time while outshooting them 357-309.
The Golden Knights were also 24-0-1 when giving up two goals or less before heading into this game, making it their first regulation loss under these circumstances. It seems obvious, but they can’t let the opening goal of a game dictate their play, regardless of which team scores it.
Fortunately, outside of the power play, these stats give reason to believe that this could be a one-off performance for the Golden Knights with the way they’ve played as of late. They have the second-best record in the NHL since Feb. 1 behind only the Boston Bruins, going 9-2-0, and are averaging 3.31 goals per game.
While the effort in the final period of play showed that the Golden Knights were fighting back and doing the things necessary to generate offense, it felt like it was too late despite only being down by a goal. The Panthers were a team that came into this game fighting for their playoff lives and it showed from the moment the puck dropped. The Golden Knights need to play with that type of energy in the final stretch if they want to hang on to that top spot in the division.
The Golden Knights have four more games left on their road trip, which will continue on Thursday as they head down to Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning. They managed to them 5-4 on Feb. 18, and Tampa has gone 2-6-2 in their last ten games since.
This next stretch of games is going to be a real test for the Golden Knights. They’ll have to forget about this game quickly if they want to take advantage of a tough Lightning team that is going through one of the biggest slumps that their franchise has seen in the past three seasons.