TAMPA, Fla. — The Golden Knights were on a dreamlike run immediately after their bye. But Tuesday’s game will keep them up at night.
Left wing Steven Stamkos scored a tiebreaking goal with 9:24 remaining, and the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Knights 4-2 at Amalie Arena. The Knights played well enough for a statement victory against the NHL’s leader in goal differential, but they missed key opportunities and the Lightning didn’t.
“It’s a tough one,” Knights left wing William Carrier said. “I think we played well. We had a lot of shots on net. We just couldn’t bury the (chances). We had a couple open nets and good chances in the first period.”
The Knights (27-21-7) outshot the Lightning 29-18, had a 24-10 edge in scoring chances and three power plays to Tampa Bay’s one. Despite all that, they never led.
It was a sign of continued progress under coach Peter DeBoer, whose record with the team fell to 3-2-1. That didn’t console the players much in the immediate aftermath. They saw an opportunity to win their third straight road game and watched it slip away.
“We need those points, so it’s frustrating,” said defenseman Brayden McNabb, who had two assists for the 10th two-point night of his career. “It sucks, but we did a lot of good. At the end of the day, we didn’t get our two points.”
The Lightning (33-15-5) scored first with 9:03 left in the first period as 2019 Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov set up center Brayden Point. Carrier answered with his sixth goal, but Tampa Bay took the lead again on right wing Tyler Johnson’s deflection 2:03 before the first intermission.
Center Paul Stastny tied the game with his own deflection 3:47 into the third, despite briefly leaving the game after taking a puck to the face. But after that, Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy refused to concede again.
Stamkos scored, left wing Alex Killorn added an empty-net goal and Tampa Bay won its fourth straight game. Vasilevskiy, the 2019 Vezina Trophy winner, tied a franchise record for a point streak by a goalie at 16 games (14-0-2).
The Knights fell to 2-1 on their four-game trip after their bye week, which concludes Thursday against the Florida Panthers.
“I don’t think it was a bad game,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “Every game, the guys get used to the new changes in the system here and there and do what the coach wants. We’ve been playing good lately. Just frustrating to lose that one tonight.”
1. Missed opportunities
The Knights had plenty of chances to take an early lead.
Left wing Max Pacioretty missed an open net in the first three minutes after a nice pass from center Chandler Stephenson. McNabb hit the crossbar after the Lightning’s first goal. Right wing Alex Tuch got behind the defense in the first period, but Vasilevskiy stopped his backhand shot.
The Knights generated plenty of looks but couldn’t convert. The Lightning didn’t miss on theirs.
“I thought we let them off the hook on some empty nets and outnumbered attacks,” DeBoer said. “Some chances to really put them in a hole, especially early in the game. You let a team like that off the hook like that, they can score. They don’t need a lot of chances to do it.”
2. Power-play struggles
The Knights’ power play added to their offensive woes, going 0-for-3. The team also went 0-for-4 in its previous game Saturday against the Nashville Predators.
All three Knights power plays came in the second period with the team down 2-1.
“I thought it could be better,” DeBoer said. “I think it goes hand in hand with us being opportunistic. You want to win the special-teams battle, especially against a team like that. You come in here, you got to do everything right.”
3. Cross it off
Amalie Arena was one of three NHL venues in which the Knights had never lost.
Now the list is down to two: United Center, home of the Chicago Blackhawks, and Canadian Tire Centre, home of the Ottawa Senators. The Knights don’t visit either place the rest of the season.