The Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights will begin a two-game road trip on Tuesday night when they travel to Winnipeg to play the Central Division leading Jets.
It’s the third and final regular-season meeting between the two teams. Vegas scored four first-period goals and cruised to a 5-2 victory on Oct. 20 in Las Vegas. Jack Eichel scored the game-winner with seven seconds left in overtime for a 2-1 win 10 days later in Las Vegas, the third game in four nights for the Jets.
The Golden Knights are 12-2-1 on the road this season, the best road record in the Western Conference and second in the NHL only to New Jersey’s 11-1-0 mark. Vegas comes in off a 3-1 loss to Boston on Sunday night, its fourth home loss in five games with the only win coming in overtime, 2-1, over Philadelphia on Friday.
Eichel, who leads the team with 13 goals and 29 points, was placed on injured reserve Monday (retroactive to Friday) after missing the Boston game with a lower-body injury. Defenseman Zach Whitecloud had to be helped off the ice in that contest with a left knee injury and was reportedly placed on long-term injured reserve, meaning he’ll have to miss 10 games and 24 days.
Further, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo hasn’t played since Nov. 26 due to an illness in his family, and defenseman Shea Theodore also missed Sunday’s loss with a lower-body injury.
Although the Golden Knights lead the Western Conference with 41 points, they are just 5-5-0 over their last 10 games, winning two in a shootout and another in overtime. They’ve scored just 22 regulation goals during that span.
Vegas took a 1-0 lead in its loss to Boston on Sunday on a power-play goal by Mark Stone 4:03 into the first period but were blanked the rest of the way by Linus Ullmark, who stopped 30 of 31 shots. The Golden Knights finished just 1-for-4 on the power play.
“Our power play scores early, gets us the lead,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy told NHL.com. “There’s some room there. Good for them executing the plan. All in all, our power play was effective in terms of generating. We did score on one, but on a night like tonight when the margins are slim, you probably need two to get it.
“We were good. We were fine. They made the play when they had the opportunity, we didn’t, they get the two points. Our guys can feel good about their effort and their compete against a good hockey club, but when you lose, there are no moral victories in that regard.”
Winnipeg, which is 10-4-0 at home, has won seven of its last nine games but comes in off a 5-2 loss to visiting Washington on Sunday. That snapped the Jets’ four-game winning streak.
The Capitals scored four times in the second period while building a 4-0 lead. Winnipeg cut it to 4-2 early in the third period on goals by Adam Lowry and Pierre-Luc Dubois before the Capitals sealed it on Alex Ovechkin’s empty-netter with 2:12 remaining.
“We’re a good team. We’re in first place for a reason. We’ll bounce back,” Winnipeg coach Rick Bowness said.
Bowness said he expects a much better performance Tuesday against the Golden Knights.
“We know we haven’t played well against Vegas,” Bowness said. “We played terrible in the two games there. We’ve got a really good team coming in again and we know we’re a lot better than tonight, a lot better than we showed in Vegas. Now, we’ve got to bounce back.”
–Field Level Media