The Vegas Golden Knights will try to bounce back from the first loss of the Bruce Cassidy era night when they open a three-game homestand with a matchup against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.
The Golden Knights began the season with three consecutive wins before taking a 3-2 road loss against defending Pacific Division champion Calgary on Tuesday. The Flames game was billed as a measuring stick for a Vegas team that missed making the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season.
“Well, I don’t think we passed the test,” Cassidy said. “Let’s put it that way.”
The Golden Knights jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period but allowed a pair of power-play goals in a sloppy second period that saw them pick up six penalties. Mikael Backlund then scored the game-winner with 4:29 remaining in the third period when he cut in front of Jack Eichel and between defensemen Alec Martinez and Alex Pietrangelo to shovel in a Blake Coleman pass from in front of the crease.
“We didn’t get cheated. They won,” Cassidy said. “They were better in the end and over the course of 60 minutes. They were able to win the net-front battle on the last goal, and there you have it. I think there’s a lot of things we’ll need to do better if we expect to beat teams like Calgary, but we have time and we’ll work on it.”
One bright spot was the play of goaltender Logan Thompson, who made several highlight-reel saves including one with his glove while on his belly on a close-in shot by Tyler Toffoli in the opening period.
Thompson, who shut out the Chicago Blackhawks 1-0 in his previous start, had a scoreless streak of 97 minutes and 45 seconds snapped when Elias Lindholm was credited with a goal that Martinez knocked in with his stick midway through the second period.
“Oh, we’ll definitely respond,” Thompson said of his team’s first loss. “It’s a veteran team here, right? We know what we’ve got to do. We’ll be better, get back to practice and get back to work.”
The Jets will be playing the second half of a back-to-back set and their third road game in four days when they take the ice on Thursday. Winnipeg comes in off an impressive 4-3 overtime win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday in Denver, snapping a five-game road losing streak that dated back to last season.
Defenseman Neal Pionk had the first two-goal game of his career and also won it with the first overtime goal of his career. His slap shot from the middle of the right circle on a two-on-one rush clanged in off the left post and went into the net behind Colorado goalie Alexandar Georgiev just 31 seconds into OT.
“I was going far side and I got a little lucky, but it was a good shot,” Pionk said.
“He was locked and loaded,” Winnipeg associate coach Scott Arniel said of Pionk and the game-winner. “He pounded that. That was a heck of a shot.”
Arniel once again ran the bench for the Jets in the place of head coach Rick Bowness. Bowness had hoped to join the team for Wednesday’s contest after testing positive for COVID on Friday, but he continues to recover from in Winnipeg.
–Field Level Media