All Vegas needed was one point. That’s it. One point with either a win or an overtime loss, and they would have clinched their spot in the 2018-2019 NHL playoffs.
Colorado decided there was a snowball’s chance in h-e-double-hockey-sticks of that happening, and ensured that by dealing a devastating 4-3 loss to Vegas.
To say the Knights haven’t been their strongest in the last three games could be an understatement. There were times where they showed their puck prowess, sure. More often, however, they’ve been looking like newborn fawns figuring out their legs.
Their game against the Avalanche was no exception. Malcom Subban was looking prime in the first period for the first five minutes it seemed. He was blocking everything Colorado threw at him, even a beautiful backhand by Nathan MacKinnon. That alertness to everything around him petered out a bit at 14:21, resulting in a goal by Matt Calvert.
The Avalanche would go on to outshoot the Knights 12-8 in the first period. This includes the multitude of shots they rained down on Subban during a Power Play in their favor, which resulted in their second goal of the night. Things were looking a bit rough.
Coach Gerard Gallant must have said something in the locker room during intermission to ignite the fire in his team, though. The Knights were on the offensive straight out of the gate at the beginning of the second period, looking to put something on the board in response to the opposing two points. As strong as they came out, they were still looking a bit shaky.
Our Knights were getting agitated, and it came out in full force during the second period. Sven Andrighetto managed to get Jonathan Marchessault tangled up between his hands and his stick, and Marchessault responded with a slight tackle followed by several punches. This resulted in a minor penalty for both skaters.
Paul Stastny finally got Vegas on the board with a backhanded goal on Phillipp Grubauer. William Karlsson answered him by dishing a sweet goal to linemate Reilly Smith. A glimmer of hope for a playoff berth clinch was restored, if only for a moment.
The Avalanche weren’t satisfied with their path of destruction yet, however. Almost immediately, Gabriel Bourque sneaked a goal past Subban, allowing Colorado to get another two-goal lead.
Vegas came out roaring like a lion in the third period. They were angry, they were fierce. That desire and passion for a playoff clinch was obvious, but Philipp Grubauer proved to be a brick wall. That was, until Alex Tuch came knocking on his door and managed to get Vegas to 3 against the Colorado 4.
Gallant was sure he could almost taste that sweet assurance of playoffs, so he pulled Subban for an extra skater. With six men, Vegas took the game to Colorado’s zone. There were plenty of shot opportunities, and even a seven-second power play opportunity. In the end, however, they weren’t able to overcome Grubauer…or get that much needed point to assure their playoff spot. The Avalanche bowled over the Golden Knights in a 4-3 loss.
After a 5-0 shutout against the Winnipeg Jets, why are the Golden Knights losing all of a sudden? In reality, Subban isn’t getting enough support from his teammates, and even some of the players are starting to think so.
“We got to get better offensively…” Alex Tuch told the press in a post-game locker room interview. “The last couple games, we haven’t helped [Subban] at all.”
This time last year, the Golden Knights faced the Avalanche in a game that resulted in a Vegas victory and a clinched spot in the playoffs. Given the current NHL standings, the Arizona Coyotes trail the Golden Knights by nine points with five games left to play. Could there be a little bit of pride involved in the last three losses as well?
Whatever the reason, or combination of reasons, Vegas needs to get their game face on. It’s possible that they could get their playoff berth on Friday against the Minnesota Wild on home ice. We will just have to wait and see.