Knights unable to seal deal vs. Canes

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Peter DeBoer never had trouble finding T-Mobile Arena in the past. He merely hopped on the team bus with the rest of the San Jose Sharks and got dropped off at the East Porte Cochere entrance.

Saturday, he had to drive to the rink. Hopefully, his new Audi that he picked up Friday had a navigation system to get him from Summerlin to the Strip.

DeBoer made it. And so did his team, to a degree. Playing at home for the first time in nearly a month, the Vegas Golden Knights tried to get a win for their new coach. But the Carolina Hurricanes rallied from two-goal deficits on three different occasions and wound up winning in a shootout, 6-5, in front of 18,417 who no doubt missed watching their favorite team.

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“Strange game,” DeBoer said. “I was worried going in. We had just come off a long road trip and through three time zones. I’m not going to make excuses but we didn’t manage the game well in the second and third periods.

“I thought we were our own worst enemy. We had opportunities to stop the bleeding by putting pucks in better places but we needed to do a better job of that.”

The Knights held leads of 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2. But Carolina, which has one of the best first lines in the NHL in Teuvo Teravainen, Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov, helped carry their team to victory. The line accounted for two goals and three assists.  

Goals 69 seconds apart in the first period from Max Pacioretty (No. 24 for the year) and Jon Merrill (his 2nd) staked Marc-Andre Fleury to a 2-0 lead. Teravainen got one back with 29 seconds left in the period on a fluke play that saw his wrist shot from the blue line deflect off Brayden McNabb and past Fleury.

The goal should have given the Hurricanes some positive momentum heading into the second period. Instead, the Knights responded with Shea Theodore scoring 59 seconds in to give Vegas its two-goal lead back. For Theodore, it was his 37th point of the season, matching his career high. He also had assisted on Pacioretty’s first-period goal and it was his second straight multi-point game. Since DeBoer took over, Theodore has been on an offensive tear with two goals and seven assists.

It ultimately evolved into a fairly wide-open game with the teams trading breakaway goals during a four-minute Carolina power play as part of a six-goal third period. 

First, it was Chandler Stephenson scoring shorthanded with Zach Whitecloud sitting for high-sticking former Golden Knight Erik Haula to give Vegas a 4-2 lead. Then Haula scored on a breakaway, beating Fleury with a nifty backhander to cut it to 4-3 with still more than 15 minutes to go.

The Canes weren’t finished. Haydn Fleury (no relation) beat Marc-Andre from the left point to tie it 4-4. The goal was originally wiped out by a goaltender interference call. But Carolina challenged and the call was reversed.

They then went up 5-4 on Martin Necas’ goal ,but the Knights tied it on Cody Eakin’s wraparound with 3:53 to play. Vegas had a late power play which went into OT but were unable to convert. The Canes hit the crossbar twice in the extra period and it wound up going to a shootout.

Svechnikov and Justin Williams would score in the shootout and it was a big two points for Carolina, which is in a battle to make the Eastern Conference playoffs.

“A hockey game is 60 minutes,” said Jonathan Marchessault. “It’s cliche, but that’s what it is. We lost a point. We had a two-goal lead and it’s on us. We didn’t close out the game.”

The wild third period didn’t seem like a wide-open affair. Yet, that’s what it evolved into.

“It didn’t feel like a track meet,” said Merrill. “But every puck they threw at the net was dangerous.”

DeBoer said sometimes weird things happen. And he will address it as the Knights go back on the road Tuesday to play the Minnesota Wild in St. Paul.

“We battled back and we got a point, but we didn’t do a good job with the two-goal leads we had,” he said. “We needed to play better in our own end and obviously the penalties were a factor. But we’ll learn from it.”

About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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