Updated December 22, 2021 - 4:52 am
There could have been a strong last-day-before-vacation vibe to Tuesday’s game for the Golden Knights.
That wasn’t the case, as they turned in a strong effort against the Tampa Bay Lightning. If not for a second-period lapse and two mistakes, the Knights might have had a better result.
Three unanswered goals by Tampa Bay was too much to overcome, and the Knights lost 4-3 to the NHL leaders in front of an announced crowd of 18,217 at T-Mobile Arena.
“It’s disappointing not to win,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “I thought we put a lot of effort and work into that game. We did some really good things for long stretches. You know, you’d like to get rewarded with points tonight. But there’s a reason they have the record they have.”
The Knights outshot Tampa Bay 41-19, but saw their five-game winning streak snapped as the Lightning (20-6-4, 44 points) rallied from a two-goal deficit.
Forward Steven Stamkos scored the winning goal on a power play with 9:47 remaining to give Tampa Bay its eighth win in the past nine games.
Mark Stone scored two goals for the Knights (20-12, 40 points) before leaving with 13 minutes remaining in the second period because of an apparent injury.
Nicolas Roy scored a spectacular goal at 8:10 of the second period, dancing through three defenders to put the Knights ahead 3-1.
But Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Anthony Cirelli scored 43 seconds apart late in the second for Tampa Bay to tie the game 3-3.
The showdown between first-place teams was the only game played in the NHL on Tuesday, as the league and NHL Players’ Association agreed to begin the holiday break early after a wave of COVID-related postponements.
“A lot of positives,” winger Reilly Smith said. “It’s just tough not to pick up any points in a game like that.”
Here are three takeaways from the game:
1. Playing short-handed
It was almost inevitable that the Knights would feel the effects of COVID-19 after dodging any positive tests on their last road trip, and it showed up Tuesday.
Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and forward Evgenii Dadonov were placed in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol after the morning skate, and each missed his first game of the season.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper also entered protocol less than two hours before opening faceoff and handed off duties to assistant Derek Lalonde.
The Knights were without their entire top defensive pair, as Nic Hague was scratched with an undisclosed injury. Goalie Robin Lehner also was a scratch because of a lower-body injury, and both players are considered day to day.
Defenseman Daniil Miromanov was recalled from Henderson and drew into the lineup on the third defense pair alongside Ben Hutton.
“We didn’t play a perfect game, but we played a hell of a game,” DeBoer said. “Usually if you play that game you’re going to win. There weren’t many teams that were going to beat us tonight with that game other than a team like that.”
2. Stone leaves early
Stone appeared to avoid injury in the first period when Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph lost an edge in the neutral zone and undercut the Knights’ captain.
He hobbled to the bench about four minutes in, but didn’t miss a shift and scored a power-play goal midway through when Max Pacioretty’s pass deflected in off Stone’s skate.
Stone scored the Knights’ second goal after Chandler Stephenson drew three Lighting defenders and fed him in the slot at 1:41 of the second period. But Stone didn’t take a shift for the final 12:59 of the second and was not on the bench for the third period, either.
There was nothing on Stone’s final shift to indicate he was injured, and DeBoer hinted he might have aggravated the upper-body injury that kept him out of Sunday’s game at the New York Islanders.
“Felt he was healthy enough for this game and then tweaked something, and we didn’t want to push through it,” DeBoer said. “It didn’t make sense tonight at this point in the season.”
3. Nicolas McDavid
Roy scored arguably the goal of the season for the Knights in the second period with a stickhandling display that was reminiscent of Edmonton’s Connor McDavid.
The Knights forward took on three Lightning defenders and made a ridiculous move that dropped perennial All-Star defenseman Victor Hedman. He then split the defense and flipped a forehand past Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy for a 3-1 lead at 8:10.
It was Roy’s sixth goal of the season, matching his total from last season that was a career high. He also has 15 points in 29 games, equaling his high set last season.
“He’s always got good hands, and he’s got some good patience to him,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “It’s kind of funny. We were talking before the game that he has to do it in a game where it really counts. He definitely did that tonight. It was a great goal and something we’re going to expect moving forward.”