Year Two blues in Vegas
The magic that made the Vegas Golden Knights the most successful expansion team in the history of major North American professional sports has yet to arrive this season.
The Golden Knights are 2-4-0 after a 1-0 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday that completed a five-game road trip. The wins have come in the only two games when Vegas has given up fewer than four goals.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has allowed 14 goals on 117 shots, a .880 save percentage that's an enormous drop from his .927 figure last season, when Vegas won the Pacific Division and advanced to the Stanley Cup Final.
The offense hasn't given Fleury much help. Vegas has scored 11 goals in its six games; two in each of the four losses and one in each of the wins (the Golden Knights defeated the Minnesota Wild 2-1 in a shootout Oct. 6). Top-line center William Karlsson, a 43-goal scorer last season, has yet to score, and five-time 30-goal scorer Max Pacioretty, acquired in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens on Sept. 10, has one point (a goal) in six games. Vegas is 0-for-16 on the power play and is one of three teams, along with the Los Angeles Kings and Florida Panthers, that haven't scored on the man-advantage.
It's not that the Golden Knights aren't getting shots; they're averaging 32.2 per game (and allowing 24.8). But Vegas has scored on 5.20 percent of those shots, down nearly 50 percent from last season (10 percent). The Golden Knights have taken 22 slap shots without scoring and have scored six times on 118 wrist shots. They have also hit the goal post or crossbar eight times, tied with the San Jose Sharks for the most in the NHL, and are second to the Sharks with 84 shot attempts that have missed the net high or wide.
The one good thing for the Golden Knights is that they are within three points of the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks (3-1-1), and two of the second-place Vancouver Canucks (3-2-0) and Calgary Flames (3-2-0). After going 2-3-0 on their five-game trip, the Golden Knights play their next five games at T-Mobile Arena, where they lost 5-2 to the Flyers in their opener but were 29-10-2 last season.
Video: VGK@PHI: Fleury makes incredible save to hold lead
How important are face-offs?
Coaches often preach the importance of winning face-offs, but a big margin in the circle is no guarantee of victory.
The Flyers became the 11th team this season to win more than 60 percent of their face-offs when they went 24-14 (63.1 percent) against Vegas on Saturday, only to lose 1-0 on a goal by Golden Knights forward Cody Eakin with 1:25 remaining in the third period.
Of the 11 teams that have won at least 60 percent of face-offs in the first 11 days of the season, six have lost. The Boston Bruins had the best game of any team on face-offs this season, going 41-19 on opening night against the Washington Capitals in a 7-0 loss. The New York Islanders' two wins have come in games that saw the opponent win more than 60 percent of face-offs; they are 0-1-0 when winning more than 55 percent.
Hurricanes 'stealing' points
The Carolina Hurricanes matched the best start in franchise history when they rallied to defeat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 in overtime on Saturday. Carolina is 4-0-1 for nine points, equaling the start by the Hartford Whalers in 1995-96.
Three of those nine points have come in games when the Hurricanes scored the tying goal after pulling the goaltender in the final minutes of the third period. Jordan Staal's late goal earned Carolina a point in a 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Islanders on Oct. 4, and Justin Williams' goal with 1:09 left against the Wild gave Sebastian Aho the chance to be the overtime hero.
The Hurricanes also became the first team to break the 50-shot mark this season (by about two hours) when they had 57 against the Wild. Carolina also had the most shots in a game last season when it outshot the Colorado Avalanche 60-27 but lost 5-3 on Nov. 2, 2017. There had been no 50-shot games in the NHL through Friday but there were three Saturday: the Hurricanes, Dallas Stars (51) and Chicago Blackhawks (50).
Video: CAR@MIN: Williams scores from sharp angle to tie game
Ducks get some unwanted firsts
The Anaheim Ducks appeared to be cruising to their fifth straight game without a regulation loss from the start of the season when they led 3-0 halfway through their game against the Dallas Stars on Saturday. Instead, they wound up with some firsts they'd rather not have had in a 5-3 loss that dropped them to 3-1-1.
The Ducks became the first team in the NHL this season to lose after leading by three or more goals. They also allowed 30 shots on goal in the second period, the most by any team in a period since the Ducks allowed 30 in the second period to the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 20, 2017. They won that game 6-2.
For the second time in NHL history, six NHL teams based in Canada won on the same day when the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Canucks, Ottawa Senators, Edmonton Oilers and Flames were each victorious Saturday (the Winnipeg Jets were off).
There was some drama in those wins, too. Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews had two points (one goal, one assist) in a 4-2 win at the Capitals to become the sixth player in NHL history to earn multiple points in each of the first six games of a season. Toronto defenseman Morgan Rielly (one assist) became the third defenseman in NHL history to have at least 13 points in his first six games.
Video: Clutch Performance: Matthews nets his 10th goal
In addition, center Connor McDavid had two points (one goal, one assist) to help the Oilers to their first win of the season, a 2-1 victory at the New York Rangers. McDavid has been involved in all five of Edmonton's goals this season (two goals, three assists).
The Flames also rallied from trailing 2-0 when Elias Lindholm's goal with 1:54 left in the third period tied the game 2-2 before Johnny Gaudreau's goal 46 seconds into overtime sealed a 3-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche.
The Quebec Nordiques, Canadiens, Flames, Maple Leafs, Canucks and Oilers all won Oct. 7, 1989. Five Canada-based teams have won on the same day 38 times since Dec. 19, 1981, most recently April 8, 2017.