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Jan 21, 2024 4:24 pm

Golden Knights begin Eastern trip against Jack Hughes-less Devils

A recent downturn and the emergence of the Vancouver Canucks as one of the NHL’s hottest teams caused the Vegas Golden Knights to tumble out of the Pacific Division lead.

The Golden Knights appear to be emerging from their slump and seek a fourth straight win Monday night when they open a four-game road trip by visiting the New Jersey Devils in Newark, N.J.

Vegas raced out to a 20-5-5 start to take a six-point lead atop the division on Dec. 12. Since then, the Golden Knights are 7-9-0 in their past 16 while the Canucks are 15-2-3 in their past 20 contests to take a seven-point lead in the division.

The deficit might be wider for the defending Stanley Cup champions if not for recent results. The Golden Knights went 4-1-0 on their five-game homestand and won the final three contests, following up lopsided wins over the Nashville Predators and New York Rangers by rallying for a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.

Vegas allowed two goals in a span of 4:59 in the second period but stormed back with a dominant third period by scoring three times in a span of 4:22. Jonathan Marchessault started the comeback with his 20th goal, Pavel Dorofeyev scored the tying goal and top prospect Brendan Brisson scored his first career goal.

“We were going down that path after the second of another shutout, which has happened a lot to us where we didn’t have enough pushback when it was necessary,” Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I liked our push, and we kept pushing.

“We didn’t sit back on our heels. I liked our whole mentality. You need that every once in a while. It keeps the momentum rolling. It could be games you look at later and say, ‘It could springboard into the next game or stretch.'”

The Devils are struggling to consistently win during Jack Hughes’ absence. Since Hughes sustained an upper-body injury against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 5, New Jersey is 2-4-1, including three straight home losses.

The Devils have scored four goals in each of their two wins without Hughes but are getting outscored 22-11 in the losses. The latest subpar performance occurred Saturday night in a 6-2 home loss to the Dallas Stars when New Jersey allowed the first six goals, including three goals in the second period, a night after the Devils’ own four-goal second period resulted in a 4-1 road win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Saturday was New Jersey’s 11th loss by at least three goals and the seventh time the Devils allowed six goals this season. Jesper Bratt and Tyler Toffoli scored in the third period to prevent a shutout but those goals occurred after the Devils followed up a 14-shot first period by getting outshot 16-8 in the decisive second period.

“I think they just outcompeted us today,” New Jersey captain Nico Hischier said. “Overall, (they) were just a better team. Forecheck better, skate better. Tough to win a game if we play the way we did and how they play the way they did.”

Vegas leads the all-time series 6-2-2.

–Field Level Media

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