In a terrific goaltending showdown, the Golden Knights topped the Blackhawks 2-1 in a shootout Tuesday night at the United Center.
Marc-Andre Fleury was stellar for Vegas with 31 saves, including several highlight-reel stops. Robin Lehner was equally tough for the Blackhawks with 33 saves but suffered the loss when Shea Theodore scored the winner in the shootout.
No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach scored his first NHL goal for the lone Blackhawks score in regulation while Nick Holden's goal in the third tied it for the Golden Knights.
It marked the second consecutive game during which the Blackhawks played a strong overall game but came away with a loss. They fell to the Capitals on Sunday night, 5-3.
"I think we're doing a lot of things that have been better the last week or so," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "But there are no easy games and there is no guarantee that even if you play a solid game you're going to win. (We've) got to try to find ways to close it out and I'd say we didn't do that (Tuesday night)."
The Blackhawks will be without the services of Connor Murphy after the defenseman suffered an apparent goin injury during the second period.
"It's going to be a couple weeks," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Obviously, that's a blow for us. It's an opportunity for other guys. We think we need to continue to build depth. We can't just play with six 'D' or seven 'D' all year. You're going to need more than that. That will be an opportunity for other guys to grow."
The Blackhawks stand at 2-3-2 on the season with one game remaining on their seven-game homestand.
Here are three takeways:
THE KID CAN PLAY
It wasn't pretty, but Dach will take his first career goal.
The score came after he camped out near the left post and had the puck deflect off his knee and into the goal.
"You just kind of take them however they come," the 18-year-old Dach said. "I'm not really too worried about scoring the pretty goals as long as they go in."
In his second career game, Dach was more noticeable than during his debut and was rewarded with his first score.
"It was a pretty cool moment," Dach said. "(You) grew up dreaming of playing in the NHL and two games in, you've got your first goal. That's pretty special, but at the same time, pretty disappointed that we lost. My main focus is the team game so I've got to take a step back and realize what I can do better to help the team win and move forward."
Said Colliton of Dach: "He made a lot of plays again and probably could have had more points, could have produced more offense for us. So, just keep going. He's going to keep improving also."
There is some thinking that Dach will get nine games to prove himself in the NHL and if the team deems he's not ready, he will be sent to his junior team and not burn a year on his entry-level contract by playing in 10 games or more.
Colliton wouldn't reveal if there is a definitive plan, saying, "(Dach's) performance is going to dictate what happens with him. There is a lot of talk about timeline and nine games and even before, like, what's the plan? Just like any player, his play will dictate where we use him.
"He knows that and it's important that he just focuses on the next game, don't worry too much about the future," Colliton added. "That future, he can't control it, he just controls tonight. And that's what our focus is, too, with him. Let's let it play out. We don't need to make up our mind before we have all the facts. So we won't."
Lehner, who was signed by the Blackhawks as a free agent in July, locked horns with Fleury in an old-fashioned goaltending duel and despite the loss was encouraged by what he's seen of his new team.
"When I chose to sign with this team, it's because I really believe in this team," Lehner said. "There's a lot of great hockey players on this club and we've seen it in spurts in the beginning of the season. I think the last few games have been really, really good. Small, small details and we're going to be very dangerous.
"I'm really liking what I'm seeing from a lot of the guys," the veteran added. "A lot of the young guys are playing great and the core guys here, maybe it looks far away but it's really close. It really is. Washington is a good team, Vegas is a good team, and at times we were totally dominating. It should have been 4-0 after two (against the Knights). A couple of posts were in the way, a couple of missed bounces. That's hockey sometimes. If we just keep playing like we're going, we're going to get good results and we're going to have a good season."
With Dach's insertion into the lineup, Dylan Strome has been shifted from center to left wing on a line with the rookie and Patrick Kane.
"Being a centerman for a long time you have to get used to it," said Strome, who assisted on Dach's goal. "It's a little different over there. You just have to adjust. I'm playing with some good players so I just try to make some plays and get the puck with speed. That's a little bit more difficult as a winger but I have to find a way to create some room and get open."
Strome has kept some centermen duties while playing on the wing like taking some faceoffs but seems ticketed to stay on the left side as long as the line continues to click.
Perhaps the biggest adjustment is defensively, according to Strome.
"We play a game where we help out down low so it's covering a little bit more ice but a little bit less skating," he said. "I just have to be smart and be responsible."
Said Colliton: "(Strome) can play wing and that allows us to be a bit more flexible with our lineup. Hopefully, he can have a little more pace to his game there. He's not having to go goal line to goal line-that can wear on you, especially when you are playing high minutes. For me, the focus with him is just win 50-50s, win a puck back in the offensive zone and then he's going to create a chance. The more he can do that he can put himself in a good situation."
Another adjustment with Dach in the lineup has been veteran Zack Smith sitting as a healthy scratch.
"I'm not unhappy with (Smith's) play," Colliton said. "I just think we have some depth and we got Kirby back and want to get him in. I think Smith has been getting better as the year has gone on. He'll get back in and he'll help us."