|Blackhawks, Knights look to get right|
Two teams in the midst of inconsistent seasons square off on Tuesday night when the Chicago Blackhawks face the Vegas Golden Knights in Las Vegas.
It's the start of a three-game road trip for Chicago, which will subsequently face the Pacific Division co-leading Arizona Coyotes on Thursday and the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues on Saturday.
The Blackhawks bring a three-game point streak with them. The upswing includes a 4-3 overtime win at Atlantic Division-leading Boston on Thursday followed by a 2-1 shootout victory at New Jersey on Friday and a 4-3 home shootout loss to the Coyotes on Sunday.
Vegas, meanwhile, has lost back-to-back games, 3-2 at the New York Islanders in overtime on Thursday and then 5-0 at home Sunday to the New York Rangers. The latter result ended the Golden Knights' streak of scoring in 52 consecutive games, a stretch that dated back to Feb. 18 at Colorado.
Like the Blackhawks, the Golden Knights' longest win streak this season has been only four games. Vegas, considered a strong Stanley Cup contender entering the season, hasn't been able to put together another win streak longer than two games and is just 7-6-3 at T-Mobile Arena, where it didn't take its sixth loss in regulation time until Jan. 23 last season.
Perhaps even more surprising is that Vegas, plagued by an at-times leaky defense prone to turnovers, enters Tuesday night's contest with a goal differential of zero. The Bruins lead the NHL at plus-29 followed by Colorado at plus-27.
The Sunday night loss was particularly frustrating for Gerard Gallant's squad. The Golden Knights dominated the first period possession-wise and while outshooting the Rangers 17-7, only to be trailing 2-0 at the end of the period after New York got goals by Artemi Panarin and Chris Kreider just 14 seconds apart.
"I thought we came out flying," Vegas defenseman Deryk Engelland said. "The goalie (Alexandar Georgiev who finished with 38 saves) made some huge saves at key times. They got two quick ones, and we weren't able to answer back."
"We played really well for the first 10 minutes, chances were there," added Golden Knights right winger Mark Stone. "If we bury one or two of those, it's a completely different game.
"Funny league. You win some you deserve to lose, and you lose some you deserve to win. But ultimately you've got to have that killer instinct to get that first goal and get our crowd into it."
About half of the sellout crowd of 18,236 had already departed the arena by the time Mika Zibanejad's power-play goal made it 5-0 with 4:55 remaining.
"We've got another game in a couple days," Engelland said. "We've got to rebound and get ready for that one."
Chicago blew a 3-1 first-period lead in its shootout loss to Arizona. Alex DeBrincat scored a goal for the third straight game and became the eighth player in Blackhawks history to collect 150 points prior to his 22nd birthday. He turns 22 on Dec. 18.
Chicago is in seventh place in the Central Division but is just two points behind fifth-place Minnesota and eight points behind third-place Winnipeg.
"We got a point today. This time we've got to respond," said goaltender Robin Lehner, who had 44 saves against Arizona. "Next game is the most important game of the season because we've got to keep getting points here now."
"They're all big," Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton said when told of Lehner's comment. "It is important how we respond. We've had this up and down with our game, and we can't expect to get to where we want to go if that continues."
--Field Level Media