The Vegas Golden Knights will try and bounce back from their most lopsided loss of the season when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday afternoon at Las Vegas.
Vegas (42-21-6, 90 points) comes in off a 7-2 home loss to the Calgary Flames on Thursday, allowing five unanswered goals to end the game.
It was just the third regulation loss since the All-Star break (13-3-2) for the Golden Knights, who saw their Pacific Division lead shrink to one point over the Los Angeles Kings heading into Saturday’s action.
It also marked the first loss as a Golden Knights goaltender for Jonathan Quick (4-1-0) since coming over from Columbus, via the Kings, at the trade deadline. The two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Kings was a member of the Blue Jackets for only a day after being obtained along with draft picks for goalie Joonas Korpisalo and defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov.
Vegas had won the final four games of a long five-game Eastern Conference road trip before Thursday’s loss and were tied with Calgary 2-2 late in the second period on back-to-back goals by Zach Whitecloud and Reilly Smith before a Blake Coleman goal just before the end of the period opened the floodgates for the Flames.
Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy blamed a 0-for-4 power play as one of the key reasons for the loss.
“Our power play was fill-in-the-blank,” Cassidy said. “I’ll settle for awful. It had a chance to be a difference-maker tonight. … We’ve just got to be better in that area and take more pride.”
Cassidy said he wasn’t going to push the panic button following the ugly loss.
“I’m not going to go home and (say) ‘… we’re in big trouble,’ ” Cassidy said. “We have to clean up a few things like we always do. I would hope for a more 60-minute effort again.”
Smith said the Golden Knights squandered too many opportunities to better compete in the game.
“Just make sure we show up for (Columbus) with a level-head and just get back down to business,” Smith said. “It’s always tough the first game back after a long road trip. We expected that. We didn’t bring our best effort for 60 minutes, so we’ve got to make sure to pick up two points the next game.”
The Blue Jackets (21-40-7, 49 points) are a woeful 8-20-5 on the road this season and have the fewest points in the NHL. The good news? If the season ended today, they would have the best shot at winning the draft lottery and landing generational talent Connor Bedard.
It’s the fourth game of a five-game road trip for Columbus, which will be playing its third game in four days. The Blue Jackets lost both ends of a back-to-back in Southern California on Thursday to Los Angeles (4-1) and Friday at Anaheim (7-4) after opening the trip with a 6-5 overtime win at San Jose.
Like Vegas, the Blue Jackets were tied late in the second period of their last game with center Cole Sillinger ending a 45-game goal drought dating back to Nov. 17 to make it 3-3. But after trading goals early in the third period, the Ducks took the lead for good on a Max Jones breakaway score.
It was just the third goal of the season for Sillinger, who had 16 goals, including a hat trick against the Golden Knights in a 6-4 victory in Las Vegas, in his rookie season.
“It feels pretty good, but … one goal in how many games?” Sillinger said. “I obviously demand more of myself, but yeah, it’s a good start.”