Not their Knight

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So much for making history.

The Vegas Golden Knights were prepared to set a franchise record with a ninth straight win Sunday. But Anze Kopitar, Calvin Petersen and the Los Angeles Kings had other ideas.

The Kings, who were huge +350 underdogs, got a pair of first-period goals from Kopitar and Petersen made them stand up with 42 saves as the Kings defeated the Knights 4-1 in front of 18,419 at T-Mobile Arena. 

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“I think the story of the game is we got behind and we had to chase the game,” Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer said. “Those games are going to happen. They had a couple of looks and the puck ended up on their stick. They battled hard and they were a desperate team. Give them some credit.”

Despite the loss, Vegas remains in first place in the Pacific Division and there was some good news as Vancouver lost at Columbus Sunday, keeping the Canucks six points behind as Calgary, a 3-0 winner at Florida, leaped past Vancouver into third place, a point behind second-place Edmonton, which trails the Knights by four points. 

But if they intend to stay at the top, they’ll have to do it without Mark Stone, who has a lower-body injury which he suffered in Friday’s win over the Sabres and is listed as week-to-week. Stone is expected to return before the end of the regular season in early April.

Stone’s grit and strong two-way play was noticeably missed Sunday. The Kings, who have the worst record in the Western Conference and the second-worst in the entire NHL, played as if they were a playoff team. They outskated and outworked Vegas early on and Kopitar, who has been a thorn in the Knights’ collective side since the inaugural season, picked up his fifth and six goals in 13 games against Vegas. 

 ven the return of Marc-Andre Fleury to the net couldn’t help as the Kings took the season series, 3-1. Neither of Kopitar’s goals were his fault but the fact he was beaten twice early put the Knights in an uphill situation.

And the task got tougher midway through the second period when Trevor Lewis made a Spin-O-Rama move on Nick Holden and scored after his shot went in off the right post to give L.A. a 3-0 lead. The Knights got as close as 3-1 on a second-period power-play goal from Shea Theodore. But Alex Iafallo got that one back on a late power play with Alec Martinez, the former King, in the box for interfering with Petersen after he was shoved into the goalie by Nikolai Prokhorkin.

Staring at another three-goal deficit, especially with just 20 minutes to go, was too much for the Knights to overcome. The Knights had 18 second-period shots on goal but managed to score just once. That didn’t help their cause either as Petersen looked sharp. He was especially impressive in the final 20 minutes as the Knights outshot the Kings by an astounding 19-1. Vegas outshot L.A. 43-17 overall but could only get it past Petersen once. 

“Obviously, they’ve been kinda hot,“ Petersen said. “So we wanted to come in here, especially on the road, and have a good performance. I think everybody did their job and I made the saves I needed to make and it worked out.

“Anytime you can start out on top, especially in this building, where things happen pretty fast, that’s important. I think that’s one of their game plans, to get out on top. But we can kinda reversed the roles and that really helped.”

The Knights (36-23-8, 80 points) have 15 games remaining in the regular season. They close out their four-game homestand Tuesday against New Jersey. then go on a five-game road trip beginning Friday at Winnipeg. And while the playoffs are still six weeks away, it’s already starting to feel like the postseason with the Pacific still very much up for grabs and the division leaders without one of its best players for the next several weeks.

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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