The Florida Panthers started strong, but could not score in the final forty minutes as they dropped their first-ever meeting with the Vegas Golden Knights by a 5-2 count at T-Mobile Arena
Florida took advantage of an early holding penalty on David Perron, with Radim Vrbata lighting the lamp 2:58 into the action. Vrbata one-timed Denis Malgin’s bouncing pass by Malcolm Subban for his first goal since October 26th. Nick Bjugstad picked up the secondary assist on the power-play marker.
Michael Matheson added another 2:15 later when he hammered a slap shot past Subban to cap off a nice passing play involving Evgenii Dadonov and Vincent Trocheck, who earned the assists.
Vegas’ Nate Schmidt halved the deficit 1:26 after the Matheson goal. Schimdt jumped into the play and finished off a pass from ex-Panther Reilly Smith from the bottom of the right circle. William Karlsson drew the second helper on Schimdt’s second.
The Golden Knights drew even when Colin Miller unloaded a shot from just below the blue line after being teed up by another former Panther Jonathan Marchessault. James Neal collected the second assist on the goal which came with 2:40 left in the period.
After the first period fireworks, it would awhile before another goal was scored. It finally came 11:40 into the third period with Erik Haula tipping Marchessault’s long shot up and over James Reimer just after a Vegas power play expired. Colin Wilson picked up his second point of the night on Haula’s eventual game-winner.
After setting up two-straight goals, Marchessault got one of his own, scoring from center ice into an empty-net after taking a pass from Smith with 2:10 remaining. Brayden McNabb also picked up an assist on the clincher.
Neal notched his sixteenth of the campaign with an empty-netter, from Shea Theodore, at 19:44 to complete the scoring and the Golden Knights run of five consecutive goals.
After a very exciting, back and forth first two periods, the Panthers simply crumbled in the third, getting out-shot by a ridiculous 20-2 margin. Hats off to Reimer, who made 17 of his 35 saves during the final frame to keep Florida close, but in the end it was Vegas who wanted the two points more than his outclassed teammates. The Cats will finish up their five-game road trip Tuesday night in Glendale.
Full Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)
Swords & Shields
- With its first win over Florida, the Golden Knights (21-9-2) moved into first place in the Pacific Division. Vegas and Los Angeles are tied with 44 points, but the Knights have two games in hand.
- Jonathan Marchessault’s three-point performance gave him 29 points on the season, tops on the expansion team.
- Aleksander Barkov had his six-game point streak come to end. Barkov finished with a -3 rating, had no shots on goal and went 8 for 22 in the faceoff dot. Tough night...
- Nick Bjugstad led the Cats with six shots on goal, and misfired on a few other quality opportunities, but could not solve Malcom Subban, who finished with 16 stops.
- Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland played his 500th NHL game. Engelland was originally drafted by the New Jersey Devils (194th overall) in 2000.
- Florida has been perfect on the penalty kill in six of their last eight games, including five consecutive games without allowing a power-play goal.
- Knights On Ice has the others side of the first meeting between the two clubs. They will meet again in Sunrise on January 19th.