Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP
Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021 | 10:50 p.m.
Things couldn’t have gone much worse for the Golden Knights on Thursday night.
Not only did they lose 6-2 to the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center, they also lost their captain to an injury in the second period. Mark Stone pulled up hurt after a shot attempt, then needed help getting to the dressing room, putting almost no weight on his lower half.
A loss is one thing Vegas can endure. Should Stone’s injury keep him sidelined for an extended stretch, that would be much more damaging to the Golden Knights.
“It was an innocent play and he just locked up,” coach Pete DeBoer said to AT&T SportsNet.
DeBoer said he’s been dealing with a minor injury that had not prevented him from playing. He did not give an update on the extent of the in-game injury.
Vegas scored the first goal of the game courtesy of Shea Theodore from distance, then coughed up the next six goals. The Golden Knights were outshot 47-25, the most shots they’ve allowed since giving up 49 on Oct. 21, 2017, nearly four years ago.
Here are three takeaways from the loss.
Trouble with the puck
There were early signs of danger, even before either team had scored. Los Angeles sent forechecks in waves, keeping the Golden Knights from cleanly exiting their own zone. Three times in the first period alone Vegas struggled, allowing Los Angeles to maintain possession, leading the Kings to fire 18 shots on goal and 34 shot attempts in the opening 20 minutes.
When Stone left, the Kings were already up 3-1, but scored soon after, off more sloppy play from Vegas. Jonathan Marchessault turned the puck over near the Los Angeles blue line, leading to a 2-on-1 and a finish from Anze Kopitar.
“They were on every puck first, so we were just chasing them all night,” forward Reilly Smith said to AT&T SportsNet. “You can say whatever you want about it, but we just have to play better. I think everyone in our locker room knows that we didn’t have the best effort tonight and we have to change it. Thankfully it’s just one game, but we need to learn from it.”
Kings veterans come up big
There’s been plenty of talk this offseason that if the Kings were going to have success, it would have to come from the kids. They have one of the deepest prospect pipelines in the NHL, but on Thursday it was the old guard who showed they still had some tricks.
Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Dustin Brown, arguably the three most important skaters on their two Stanley Cup teams last decade, combined for five goals and 11 points, including a hat trick and two assists from Kopitar and a goal and three assists from Doughty.
Kopitar in particular has always been a thorn in the Golden Knights’ side. After his three points Thursday, he has 11 goals and 26 points in 22 career games against Vegas, a 1.18 points per game tally that is his best against any opponent.
New-look third line
Not much went right for the Golden Knights, but the third line of Keegan Kolesar, Nolan Patrick and Evgenii Dadonov was a bright spot. They were on the ice for the first Vegas goal and all three played a part, as Kolesar’s forecheck set it up, Patrick cleared the crease and Dadonov got a stick in goalie Cal Petersen’s sightline to allow Theodore’s shot to get through.
Dadonov had a strong night, generating a breakaway in the first period and hitting the crossbar in the second. He then banked a shot off Chandler Stephenson for an assist in the third period, his first point as a Golden Knights.
Overall the trio was on the ice together for 5:12 at 5-on-5 ice time, in which time the Golden Knights out-attempted the Kings 9-1 and generated eight scoring chances and allowed zero, according to Natural Stat Trick.
“If I had to rank who I liked tonight on our team, (Kolesar) would have been right near the top of that list for sure,” DeBoer told AT&T SportsNet. “After that, there wasn’t a lot of guys I’ll be mentioning that I thought had good nights or good chemistry.”
In a humorous twist and coupled with Stephenson’s goal off his skate on Tuesday, the Vegas forward this season has more goals (2) than shot attempts from his stick (1).