The Arizona Coyotes hope to carry the momentum of a strong finish in Friday's 7-4 loss to Vegas into Sunday afternoon's rematch with the Golden Knights in Las Vegas.
Arizona fell behind 4-0 in the first nine minutes, when Vegas had 18 of its season-high 22 first-period shots on goal. The Golden Knights were cruising with a 5-0 lead when Nick Schmaltz scored with just 53 seconds remaining in the second period, the first of three consecutive Coyotes goals over a 4:33 span.
Reilly Smith scored his second goal of the night to give Vegas a little breathing room at 6-3 in the third, but Michael Bunting answered with his fourth goal in the past three games just 15 seconds later. It wasn't until Max Pacioretty scored an empty-net goal with 54.3 seconds left that the Golden Knights could exhale.
"It's unfortunate how it started, but I thought we ended pretty strong, and you can build off that heading into Sunday," Bunting said. "Obviously it gives us a little confidence knowing that we can play against them and we can control the game when we want to. I thought we played pretty well at the end of the second and into the third, but we just can't start like that at the end of the day."
Bunting certainly won't get any argument from coach Rick Tocchet when it comes to the poor start. A frustrated Tocchet used his timeout at the 4:41 mark of the opening period to try to settle his team after William Carrier made the score 2-0 and the Golden Knights already had a 10-1 edge in shots on goal.
"At the end there we made it a bit of a game," Tocchet said. "But this team can't have four or five guys not ready (to play). I thought we were ready, too. We had a game plan, and it just started right from the beginning. Just couldn't grab a puck, couldn't hold a puck. I don't want to use the word 'scared.' We just looked timid out there."
"We weren't ready to play," Clayton Keller said. "They're a great team. If you do that, that's what is going to happen. We left (goalie Adin Hill) out to dry there. It's definitely embarrassing. It's something we have to wash away and look forward to the next one."
Vegas had emphasized making a strong start after losing 3-1 at St. Louis on Wednesday. The Golden Knights fell behind 2-0 in the first eight minutes and never recovered despite firing 51 shots on Jordan Binnington.
"The past few games our starts weren't good enough," center Jonathan Marchessault said. "We emphasized that tonight and we were really good, I think, in the first period. But our second was OK and the third was definitely not how a winning team is supposed to come out. We've got to be able to close out games way easier than that. We definitely have to be aware next game and play a full 60 minutes."
Vegas had just five shots on goal in the third period after having 32 over the first two periods.
"You're disappointed because you don't walk out with the feeling that you should (have)," coach Peter DeBoer said. "You should walk out feeling great about that game. We did a lot of really good things. But you don't because of the way the third period went."
--Field Level Media