Knights drop to .500 at home with 5-2 loss to Islanders
The home woes for the Vegas Golden Knights continued Saturday, Dec. 17 as they were defeated by the New York Islanders, 5-2 from the T-Mobile Arena.
Vegas is 1-5 in their last six home games and 8-8-0 overall on the season when they play at The Fortress.
“We have to manage the puck better,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Once they go over the boards, the onus goes on them. They’re the ones on the ice, they have to manage the puck better. They have to accept that and that’s where we have a problem right now. It’s why our record is .500 at home.”
Vegas is now 22-10-1 on the year with 45 points in the Pacific Division. The Knights still lead the division by six points over the Los Angeles Kings.
“We played the right way for the majority of the game except for a couple costly mistakes,” forward Keegan Kolesar said.
The Knights continue their four-game homestand Monday night as they play the Buffalo Sabres with puck drop set for 7 p.m.
Buffalo is coming into the matchup on a three-game winning streak, and has won five of their last six matchups against Western Conference opponents. Vegas won the first meeting earlier this year in Buffalo, 7-4.
Vegas never led in this game and trailed by two or more goals on two separate occasions. VGK tried to make one final push to tie the game at three late in the game, but a Brock Nelson empty net goal for New York sealed the game away with 1:28 to play in regulation.
The Knights out-shot the Islanders 38-26 and at one point during the game, had a 15-shot advantage over the visitors. Despite being out-shot, New York countered by out-hitting Vegas 25-14 in total hits.
New York goaltender Semyon Varlamov finished his night with 35 saves on the night for a final save percentage of .946.
While the Knights may not have walked away with the result they were hoping for, it was still another productive night for the Vegas special teams. Forward Reilly Smith scored two goals, both coming via the power play, and the penalty kill unit killed off both penalties they faced.
It’s only the second time in his career that Smith has two power play goals in the same game. The other game he did it was on Oct. 10, 2016, vs Philadelphia. Smith now has back-to-back multi-goal games and three straight multi-point games. His five power play goals this year are the most Smith has had in a season since 2017-18 when he had a career-high seven power play goals.
Smith was named the second star of the game with his two goals scored.
“We created enough,” Smith said. “I think we had a strong second half of the game, we just put ourselves in a little bit of a hole.”
Vegas got one of their top defensemen back in Alex Pietrangelo who had missed the last nine games due to an illness that his daughter suffered. The illness took a turn for the worst after Thanksgiving and became a much more serious issue.
Now, Pietrangelo’s daughter is expected to make a full recovery.
He found the stat sheet in his return as he played 22 minutes, had three shots, served one penalty, and assisted on a goal.
“He’s great,” Smith said. “He’s great for this group. Obviously, [it’s] a really tough thing going on with his family, but for him to be able to come out and help us tonight, we definitely need him. Hopefully he can get out of here [quickly] and spend some time with his family.”
In talking about Pietrangelo’s return, Kolesar shared some thoughts on what it meant to have him back.
“It’s awesome, not just with hockey but in life in general,” Kolesar said. “To see what he went through with his family, you can’t even imagine. You don’t know what to think. Still praying for his daughter to get better and on the hockey side, it’s awesome. He’s a world-class player and it’s awesome to have him back on the ice.”
Captain Mark Stone did go down with an injury but did return to the game moments later.
The team is still without their top goal scorer in center Jack Eichel who is day-to-day along with fellow center Paul Cotter, both of whom are missing time due to injury. Defenseman Shea Theodore remains out with injury with no definitive timetable on his return and fellow defenseman Zach Whitecloud is listed as month-to-month with a lower-body injury, but the team does expect Whitecloud to return this season.