After having their franchise record-tying eight-game win streak snapped in surprising fashion by the Los Angeles Kings, the Vegas Golden Knights conclude a four-game homestand on Tuesday when they host the New Jersey Devils in Las Vegas.
Sunday night's 4-1 loss to the last-place Kings, who have the fewest points in the Western Conference and second-fewest in the NHL, represented a wasted opportunity for Peter DeBoer's squad to build on its lead in the ultra-competitive Pacific Division, where the top four teams are bunched within six points entering Monday.
"It doesn't matter what team you're playing, two points is two points, and they're pretty important right now," Vegas forward Reilly Smith told reporters after the game. "We let two points slip away tonight."
"You look at the standings, everyone seems to be winning with us," defenseman Nate Schmidt told NHL.com. "It's hard to drop a game like that, but we've been playing really well the last couple of weeks."
Indeed, even after Sunday's loss the Golden Knights are still 10-3-1 since the start of February.
Anze Kopitar scored two goals in the first 7:39 and rookie goaltender Calvin Petersen stopped 42 shots to pace Los Angeles. Vegas lost despite outshooting the Kings, 43-17, including 37-8 over the final two periods and an eye-popping 19-1 in the third.
"I think if we played that same way against them another nine times we'd probably beat them all nine," Smith said. "They scored a couple goals early and it seemed like we were getting enough chances (but) we just weren't finding the back of the net. You play 82 games in a season you are going to run into nights like these. I think we did enough to win. It just didn't pan out."
Now comes a game against New Jersey, which sits in last place in the Metropolitan Division. The Golden Knights, who play 10 of their final 14 games on the road (including two at second-place Edmonton), can ill afford another home slip-up.
"I think our mindset has to be every game, no matter who we're playing, the top team in the West or the bottom team in the East, or vice versa, these points are so important for us," said center Paul Stastny. "We've got a big game to end off our homestand, and we're going to want to end that on a positive note."
Despite its not-so-lofty ranking in the Metro, New Jersey has played well recently. The Devils are 6-2-2 over their past 10 games and are riding a six-game point streak (4-0-2) that matches their longest of the season.
New Jersey comes in off a 3-0 victory at Anaheim on Sunday as Pavel Zacha scored a pair of power-play goals and Cory Schneider, playing in his third game since being recalled from Binghamton of the American Hockey League, stopped 34 shots to register his first NHL shutout since Feb. 21, 2019.
"My teammates did their job tonight," Schneider said. "For me, it's just about doing my job. The game felt good tonight in terms of my performance and how I felt."
This is the second of two regular-season meetings between the two teams. Vegas, behind a Jonathan Marchessault hat trick, won the first one 4-3 on Dec. 3 in Newark, N.J.
--Field Level Media
Golden Knights look for bounce-back vs. Devils
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