After posting a rare road blemish with a 4-2 loss at Los Angeles, the Vegas Golden Knights will make the short drive down Interstate 5 to Anaheim, Calif., to play the Ducks on Wednesday night in the second game of a back-to-back.
Vegas had a four-game road winning streak snapped with the loss to the Kings, just the third regulation road loss in 18 games (14-3-1) for the Golden Knights this season. Los Angeles closed to within three points of Vegas, the Western Conference leader with 49 points.
Against the Kings, the Golden Knights took a 2-1 lead midway through the second period on defenseman Brayden McNabb’s first goal of the season off a nifty between-the-legs setup by Reilly Smith. But Los Angeles tied it a little over three minutes later on a Phillip Danault goal.
Alex Iafallo scored what proved to be the game-winner midway through the third period on an odd-man rush after Mark Stone lost an edge in the neutral zone.
“We did a lot of things well,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Certainly played well enough to win. … Guy blew a wheel and we gave up a 3-on-2, and they were able to capitalize and we (didn’t), and that’s the story of the third period.”
This is the third back-to-back of the season for the Golden Knights. Vegas swept the first one on Oct. 24-25 with a 3-1 home win over Toronto followed by a 4-2 victory at San Jose, but they were swept in the second one at home on Thanksgiving weekend, losing to both Seattle (4-2 score) and Vancouver (5-1).
“We’ll regroup in the morning,” Cassidy said. “We’ve had time off. I think your first game you’re playing a bit on adrenaline. You’re excited to get back out there. Now we’ll be back at it (Wednesday). How easy is it to fill the tank after tonight? Hopefully, guys don’t let this one bother them very long.
“Like I said, we were right there. Didn’t work out for us. Give L.A. credit. Let’s get ready for Anaheim.”
Vegas, already without top-six defensemen Shea Theodore (leg injury) and Zach Whitecloud (lower body), played the final two periods without Alec Martinez. The defenseman, who leads the NHL by a wide margin in blocked shots with 132, took an Iafallo slap shot off his right ankle in the opening period and left the game.
“Blocked a shot, never returned,” Cassidy said. “We’ll have a better idea where he’s at (Wednesday).”
Anaheim, which will play the third game in a 10-game homestand, have been idle since a 3-2 overtime loss to Calgary on Friday.
The Ducks, who have dropped three in a row and occupy the basement in the Pacific Division, nabbed a point against the Flames despite being outshot 45-23, including an eye-popping 23-1 in the second period.
Rookie goaltender Lukas Dostal finished with 42 saves, his second game in six season starts with 40 or more saves.
“Our guys need a break,” Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins said after Friday’s game, referring to the holiday hiatus.
The Ducks practiced Tuesday, and veteran goaltender John Gibson, out since suffering a lower-body injury against Toronto on Dec. 13, was a full participant.
“We’re going to see how he (Gibson) reacts overnight and make the call in the morning,” Eakins told The Orange County Register when asked about Gibson’s status for the Vegas game. “The fact that he got through practice is very positive.”
This is the second meeting between the two teams this season. The Knights, behind 29 saves by Logan Thompson, won the first one 4-0 on Oct. 28 on their home ice to improve to 21-4-0 all-time against the Ducks.
–Field Level Media