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Golden Knights vs Panthers

Steve Marcus

Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe (23) scores against Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Logan Thompson (36) during the second period of an NHL hockey game at T-Mobile Arena Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024.

Updated 7 minutes ago

The 0:35 mark of the second period was the start of a marathon on the power play for the Golden Knights.

Three penalties were committed in a three-minute span by the Florida Panthers. Vegas had four minutes, 27 seconds of time on the man advantage, including two opportunities at a 5-on-3. One of those chances lasted nearly a minute and a half.

In that span of almost four and a half minutes, the Golden Knights had a grand total of one shot on goal. It got to the point Bruce Cassidy had to call a timeout to give his top unit some rest, while drawing up a play to produce something. 

They didn’t score.

That was the beginning of the end.

The Golden Knights are finding different ways to lose right now. Thursday night was the turn of the special teams, giving up three power-play goals and going 0-for-6 on their own power play, leading to a 4-1 loss to the Panthers at T-Mobile Arena.

Each game in this slide has produced something different, whether it be defensive breakdowns in front of their own net, subpar goaltending, or not finding the back of the net on their own accord.

No matter how it’s concocted, it’s a seventh loss in nine games for the Golden Knights with all losses coming in regulation, in a stretch that starts seven of the next eight games at home. To not take advantage of three consecutive gifts to open the second period was the nail in the coffin.

“I think our power play sucked the life out of us,” coach Bruce Cassidy said.

While the Golden Knights (22-12-5) couldn’t find an answer on the power play, their once-dominant penalty kill was attacked once again as it has been over the past nine games. The Panthers’ 3-for-6 evening resulted in 12 power-play goals allowed in the last 30 attempts, killing just 60% of their penalties.

For context, the league’s worst penalty kill — the Ottawa Senators — is killing penalties at a 71.9% rate for the entire season.

Florida took a 2-1 lead in the second period behind two power-play goals from Sam Bennett and Matthew Tkachuk, the latter coming 1:13 after Vegas’ power-play brigade ended.

“Tonight, the game completely changed,” said captain Mark Stone. “We had a 5-on-3 for a minute and a half, and I’m not so sure we had a good scoring chance.”

That power play was the culmination of an abundance of chances the Golden Knights had at their disposal.

They dominated the first period. It was an opening frame that made people feel like they were back in June 2023 — when the Golden Knights ran roughshod on the Panthers to win the Stanley Cup — rather than January 2024. Vegas had four odd-man rushes in the first 10 minutes, and even scored first when Pavel Dorofeyev scored just under four minutes into the game.

Even on the Golden Knights’ first power play of the game, it seemed they were destined to score. Jonathan Marchessault had two great looks from the left circle, but Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky stopped them. Bobrovsky also made the biggest save of the game before that power play, robbing Marchessault on a 2-on-0 off a turnover.

Once Bennett scored at 14:16, that changed the game and Florida seized momentum. For a team that’s already down a number of key players, and now recently William Karlsson and Keegan Kolesar, they couldn’t afford that to happen.

“I’m not so sure any of us got to our spot (on the first power play), but we were moving the puck really well, getting our chances, just taking what they give you,” Stone said. “And then we just got stagnant.”

That, too, has been a constant theme for the Golden Knights as of late.

Cassidy has been looking for a consistent 60-minute game for the past three weeks. The Golden Knights have had good spurts of play at times, but the bad has far outweighed the good. Vegas had no response, on special teams or 5-on-5, while the Panthers took advantage.

This loss came down to special teams, Cassidy said. More importantly, the top unit did not show up while Florida’s did.

“Those are the guys that make it go,” Cassidy said. “Our best players got outplayed on special teams by their best players. From there, we weren’t able to get our game back.”

It’s the eighth time in the last nine games the Golden Knights have given up at least three goals in a game. This one may be more alarming, and it had nothing to do with the goals given up.

Florida had to play the final 40 minutes without two top-line players, captain Sasha Barkov and winger Evan Rodrigues. Despite that, the Panthers out-attempted the Golden Knights 40-33, outshot them 24-14 and had a 22-7 edge in scoring chances while playing with 16 skaters.

There have been many deflating ways they’ve lost lately. This one might be at the top.

“Twenty guys come to the rink every day and play. Everybody has to play better,” Stone said. “Forwards have to play better, the D have to play better, the goalies have to play better. Everybody has to play better.”

Danny Webster can be reached at 702-259-8814 or [email protected]. Follow Danny on X at

Article written by #LasVegasSun