Following an 11-game stretch that saw them win just three times, the Vegas Golden Knights have won two straight, among their finest games of the season.
Vegas enters Monday night’s contest with the St. Louis Blues in Las Vegas with a Western Conference-leading 36 points despite its recent slump, thanks in part to an 11-0-1 start to the season. The Golden Knights posted back-to-back 4-1 victories: at Vancouver on Thursday and at home against Washington on Saturday.
The Golden Knights have displayed some of the same suffocating defense that they rode to their first Stanley Cup victory last spring, holding the Canucks to just 22 shots on goal, including 16 over the first two periods while building a 3-0 lead. They then limited the Capitals to 22 shots, including just seven in the first 41 minutes en route to another 3-0 lead.
“I think we’re just, to a man, more focused on the task at hand and playing on our toes a little bit more. Simple as that,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said of the recent turnaround following the 3-5-3 stretch. “I like where we’re at with our game, especially the last couple of games. … It seems like we’ve gotten back to who we are.”
Jonathan Marchessault scored two goals to snap a six-game drought, and Jack Eichel had his second consecutive three-point game with a goal and two assists against Washington.
“It had been a while, so it was kind of nice to get on the board,” Marchessault, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy (MVP) after scoring 13 playoff goals last season, said. “We’re a veteran group, and we know how to win hockey games. It was a good overall game.”
Vegas now starts a home-and-home with the Blues, who are 10-6-7 all-time against the Golden Knights but come in after having lost two of their last three games, including a 4-1 loss at Arizona on Saturday.
The Blues fell behind 3-0 in the first period against the Coyotes but rebounded to outshoot Arizona, 29-13, over the last two periods. Brandon Saad scored a goal to cut it to 3-1, but Alex Kerfoot’s empty-netter sealed the win for the Coyotes.
“We had about 10 minutes there of bad hockey, 10 to 15 minutes of OK hockey, and 35 minutes of good hockey,” Blues defenseman Torey Krug said.
Slow starts have been a problem for St. Louis which is 1-10-1 after allowing the first goal. The Blues have not been able to rally from a multi-goal deficit to win a game this season. It was their eighth loss of the season by at least three goals. Only San Jose (11) has more.
In its last nine games, St. Louis has fallen behind 3-0 in the first 13:53 in an eventual 8-3 home loss to Nashville, 4-0 in the first 15:20 of a 5-1 loss at Los Angeles, 4-0 after 23:25 in an eventual 5-1 loss at San Jose, and then 3-0 in the first 19:22 in Saturday’s loss at Arizona.
“We’ve got to figure it out, especially being a veteran team and having the older guys that we do,” Krug said. “Got to find a way … otherwise, it’s going to keep spiraling. That’s how you end up losing hockey games because you’re too far to come back from behind.”