ST. LOUIS — The Golden Knights proved Thursday that a horrific 20 minutes count more than a decent 40.
The Knights played well in the first and third periods of their 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center, but a terrible second cost them the game.
The Knights, who led 2-1 after the first, allowed three goals in the second to relinquish their lead. After controlling the opening 20 minutes — they had five high-danger scoring chances and allowed none — they fell apart in the second.
The Blues had an 8-1 edge in high-danger scoring chances and showed the type of resolve they used to win the Stanley Cup in June.
“Our second was awful,” left wing Jonathan Marchessault said. “They got three goals. Not a good enough effort for our team.”
The Blues tied the game early to get their crowd back into it. Right wing Oskar Sundqvist tipped captain Alex Pietrangelo’s shot past goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury 1:34 into the period.
It was part of an impressive game for Sundqvist, who played after missing the previous six games with a lower-body injury. He skated like he was making up for lost time. Or maybe he just had extra motivation. Sundqvist was traded to the Blues by the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2017 NHL Draft in exchange for current Golden Knights right wing Ryan Reaves.
“He just plays an aggressive game and he attacks,” said Blues coach Craig Berube, who called Sundqvist’s game “excellent.” “That’s what he does. He doesn’t quit. He wills his way to everywhere on the ice. He wills his way through traffic. He wills his way to the net. He just wills goals in. That’s what he does. He’s an effort player.”
The Blues didn’t let up after Sundqvist’s goal. They constantly pressured Fleury. They broke through again with 5:07 remaining in the second.
After defenseman Justin Faulk kept the puck in the offensive zone, right wing Jaden Schwartz swung it to center Brayden Schenn. The veteran fired a backhand shot from the slot on Fleury and the rebound came right to Schwartz in the left circle.
Both center Tomas Nosek and Brayden McNabb were defending right wing Jordan Kyrou in front of the net, which allowed Schwartz to fire a wrist shot that beat Fleury.
“They made good plays at the right time,” Marchessault said.
The defensive breakdown gave the Blues a 3-2 lead, and they doubled their advantage 39 seconds later. Center Robert Thomas and defenseman Colton Parayko rushed up the ice, and once again the Knights rushed to defend the man in the middle of the ice.
Parayko skated into the slot and drew two defenders. That left Thomas unbothered at the bottom of the right circle, and he beat Fleury short-side to give the Blues a 4-2 lead. It was a goal Fleury was unhappy with after the game.
“That fourth one, that’s on me right?” Fleury said. “I wish I could stop that one.”
The Knights wish a lot of things could have gone differently in the second period. Their poor showing in the middle frame is why they lost the game.
In the first and third periods the Knights had a clear edge in shot attempts (33-16), scoring chances (24-8) and high-danger scoring chances (9-1). But because they played so poorly in the second, none of that mattered.
“I thought we had two great periods, the first and the third, but the second wasn’t, obviously, nearly good enough,” coach Gerard Gallant said.