The Vegas Golden Knights are set to play the second contest of their five-game trip away from home, and the road swing’s opener in Canada didn’t go as planned.
Coach Pete DeBoer’s squad suffered its fourth shutout this season — a 29-save performance by Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck on Friday night — to put a damper on some excellent play of late by Vegas and remove some momentum during its second-longest stretch of games away from Nevada.
The Golden Knights — 9-2-0 in their last 11 contests — will try to regain their form in the province of Alberta on Sunday. They play the Flames in Calgary in a key game between the Pacific Division clubs.
The meeting will be the third between the teams, and the results have been lopsided so far.
The Golden Knights registered a 6-2 victory on Oct. 12 in their fifth game of the season and a 6-0 drubbing of the Flames on Nov. 17, also in Vegas — long before DeBoer stepped behind the Vegas bench.
The visitors need an outing in Calgary like the pair months ago.
It was a different story in Manitoba on Friday when Vegas met the Winnipeg Jets for the second time. The home side scored in the first period and added two more tallies before the first period’s horn sounded, and the Central Division club eventually cruised to a 4-0 victory.
“The game was over in the first period,” DeBoer said following the one-sided contest. “The first period was unacceptable, and that’s what happens when you’re playing desperate teams with great goaltending.”
Holding third place in the Pacific by only a slim lead, the Flames continue to ride the red-hot play of dynamic 22-year-old forward Matthew Tkachuk. They trail Vegas by just three points for the top spot in the competitive division.
The fourth-year winger most notably made news this season after a few hit-filled exchanges with Oilers power forward Zack Kassian in a Jan. 11 “Battle of Alberta” with Edmonton, but Tkachuk’s 200-foot game has spoken for itself so far.
He assisted on all three goals Friday night as the Flames held off the Arizona Coyotes, 3-2, behind tallies from Johnny Gaudreau, TJ Brodie and Mikael Backlund.
An energetic player who plays on the edge and pushes Calgary’s play and the opposition’s buttons, Tkachuk has produced nine points in the last six contests (two goals, seven assists) and has totaled 60 points (22 goals, 38 assists) in the second-best campaign of his career.
“We need to be comfortable in these types of games,” Tkachuk said after Friday’s divisional win. “This was a playoff type game — a four-pointer. This is what it’s going to be like coming down the stretch.”
In the middle of a five-game homestand, the Flames will play nine of their last 13 matches on home ice.
Six of the 13 will be against Pacific competition — five at home — and they will face the Golden Knights for the final time on April 2 at Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome.
–Field Level Media