The Florida Panthers won the first six minutes; they lost most of the next 54.
After jumping out to an early 2-0 lead on Sunday night, the Panthers offense all but evaporated in a 5-2 loss to the expansion Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
With the game tied 2-2 heading into the third period, Knights forward Erik Haula re-directed a puck over the shoulder of goaltender James Reimer for the game-winning goal at 11:40 of the third period. Vegas, which improved to 13-2-1 at home this season, outshot the Panthers 20-2 in the final period.
"We got off to a pretty good start; it might have been a little bit lucky. We talked about that after the first period," Panthers captain Derek MacKenzie said. "We got some breaks early and then we kinda let them back in the game that we were going to need to do more.
"It's not one in particular thing. I think we got one shot in the third, and we talked about how we're not going to win too many games with one shot in the third in a 2-2 game. I liked our second [period]. I liked how we kind of set ourselves up for what should have been a good third period and a good opportunity, given the fact it was 2-2 in this building. It just fell short."
Florida (12-16-5) will wrap up its five-game road trip on Tuesday in Arizona.
Here are five takeaways from Sunday's loss in Las Vegas…
1. DISAPPEARING ACT
With the game tied 2-2, the Panthers absolutely vanished during the third period on Sunday night. The Knights outshot the Panthers 20-2 in the final frame, with Florida failing to register its first shot on goal until 8:33 of the period. After Haula scored his eventual game-winning goal, Vegas also tacked on a pair of empty-net goals in the final 2:10 to seal the deal. The Panthers also took a pair of key penalties midway through the period, which certainly helped keep them from generating any kind of momentum. "It was disappointing," Panthers head coach Bob Boughner said of the effort. "Our third period was probably, obviously, the most disappointing period, for me, in a long time, maybe the season."
2. VRBATA WAKES UP
Radim Vrbata recorded his fourth goal of the season on Sunday night. It was also just the second game in which Vrbata has scored this season. With the Panthers on the power play, Vrbata took a pass from Denis Malgin and fired a blistering slap shot from the left circle, beating Knights goalie Malcolm Subban at 2:58 of the first period to open the scoring. The 36-year-old winger entered tonight's game with 11 points (3-8-11) in 26 games - including just one point in his last 14 - with all three goals coming in the same game, an Oct. 26 win against Anaheim. A healthy scratch for the first time this season on Tuesday in Chicago, Vrbata joined the Panthers this offseason on a one-year contract with the hope that he would able to replicate his 20-goal campaign with Arizona in 2016-17. As Florida continues to search for secondary scoring in its lineup, Vrbata's return to the scoresheet is hopefully a sign of things to come rather than just a flash in the pan.
Video: FLA@VGK: Vrbata one-times Malgin's feed for PPG
3. PUT IT ALL ON RED
Mike Matheson was still searching for his first goal of the season when Florida embarked on its current five-game road trip. He'll now be returning home with at least two. The 23-year-old defenseman scored his second goal of the season on Sunday, beating Subban with a slap shot off a nice feed from Evgenii Dadonov at 5:13 of the first period. "I was just coming off the bench and I guess their back-checkers kind of lost track of me because I was," Matheson said. "I just started skating into the zone, [Dadonov] happened to pull up, we made eye contact and he made a great pass." Matheson, who played the role of hero earlier in the trip when he scored the game-winning goal in Tuesday's overtime victory in Detroit, can also likely expect to see more goals in the future thanks to a recent special teams promotion. After entering the matchup with just 10:10 of power play time all season, Matheson quarterbacked Florida's second power play unit during tonight's game, skating for 1:30 with the man advantage.
Video: FLA@VGK: Matheson fires slapper past Subban
4. FRIENDS BECOME FOES
This was a game that you know both Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith had circled on their calendars for months. After suiting up for the Panthers in 2016-17, both Marchessault and Smith were shipped to Las Vegas this summer - Marchessault via expansion draft and Smith via trade. In the first game against their former team, both players made their presence known. Smith registered a pair of assists, while Marchessualt finished the night with three points, including an empty-net goal that ice the game at 17:50 of the third period. The lone assist on that goal? It went to Smith, of course. Knights head coach Gerard Gallant, who was let go by the Panthers early last season, also picked up his first-career win against his former team.
5. PK STAYS PERFECT
It seems like Florida's penalty kill has found its way into "5 Takeaways" after every single game these past few weeks, and for good reason. The Panthers killed off all four of the Knights' power plays on Sunday - their fifth consecutive game without surrendering a goal to the man advantage. Florida boasts the best penalty-killing unit in the league since Nov. 22, killing off 35 of 38 opposing power plays (92.10 percent) over its last 12 games. "I thought our penalty kill was really good tonight and gave us a chance," Reimer said. "Kudos to those guys."
BONUS: POSSESSION CHART (via HockeyStats.ca)
The Knights outshot the Panthers 73-43 in all situations. Vegas took over the shot lead a little over three minutes into the first period and never relinquished it, keeping up steady pressure throughout the entire game.