The Arizona Coyotes knew that tonight was going to be much harder.
No hockey game is easy, but the Coyotes' first two games were against the San Jose Sharks, a team that is expected to finish at the bottom of the Division and probably conference. Tonight they would be playing the Vegas Golden Knights, a favorite to win the division.
And for a while, it looked like the Coyotes were going to pull it off. They were the dominant team for the first two periods only to fall apart in the third.
The Coyotes started strong, but they took the first penalty. But that may have been a blessing in disguise as Tyler Pitlick got his first of the season short-handed. Arizona would kill the rest of the penalty, which not long after that goal became a 5 on 3 when Jordan Oesterle sent the puck over the glass.
Special teams would be big for the Coyotes.
In addition to that short-handed goal, they killed all five Vegas power plays. Allowing Vegas to have five power plays is another story entirely, and one that is going to need to be addressed.
The Coyotes had five power play opportunities of their own though. The power play wasn't consistent and tended to start weakly only for the Coyotes to recover thirty seconds in. But they did find the back of the net with Schmaltz getting his first of the season.
After Schmaltz's goal put them up 2-0 they continued to apply pressure. They had complete control of the game and at one point the Coyotes were outshooting the Golden Knights 20-8.
Robin Lehner's role in Vegas' win can not be understated. There were plenty of times he had to make massive saves on the Coyotes to keep his team in the game. If the Coyotes had been able to get that third goal it may have changed the outcome.
But late in the Max Pacioretty shot the puck wide and was able to recover it as it bounced from the boards. It wasn't the best angle, but he got it in past Darcy Kuemper giving the Golden Knights their first goal at 37:02 into the game.
And just like that things changed. Vegas had all of the momentum from that point on and finished the period strong.
Arizona had a chance to reset in the intermission, but unfortunately, they couldn't regain control.
Reily Smith tied the game just over four minutes into the third period. Vegas crashed the net to get the goal, and you could tell the Coyotes were in trouble.
Four minutes later Vegas got a bit of luck. A wide shot bounced off Chandler Stephenson's back past Darcy Kuemper giving them their first lead of the night.
Arizona didn't completely give up. There was some pressure and it looked like they could have tied it up a few times. But by then Vegas was all in and the Coyotes weren't able to get that tying goal.
And as the Coyotes closed out the game on the power play with Kuemper pulled Reilly Smith was able to sink the empty-netter, giving the Golden Knights the 4-2 win.
- The Coyotes were really firing on all cylinders for the first two periods. It is a shame they couldn't keep it going and they are going to need to find a way to play a full sixty minutes.
- Drake Cagiula stood out tonight in a way that he didn't in his first two games. He had a couple of good chances and set up Christian Dvorak a few times.
- With Oliver Ekman-Larsson missing the next few weeks this was Kyle Capobianco's first game this season. I loved his shot, but he had quite a few defensive lapses. A little bit of work on that though and he should be good.
- In addition to the goal Schmaltz also lead the team in shots on goal with six.
- Conor Garland didn't score, but he was definitely in the Golden Knights' heads. He had a few great chances, drew a few penalties, and really got under Vegas' skin.
- Lawson Crouse and Johan Larsson both looking good on the penalty kill.
- After they first scored Vegas definitely came back stronger, but the Coyotes seemed shaken by it. They didn't have that same push in the third and allowed Vegas to keep coming.
- Robin Lehner - 30 saves on 32 shots
- Reilly Smith - 2 goals
- Nick Schmaltz - 1 goal
The Coyotes play the Golden Knights again this Wednesday, January 20th.