The Vegas Golden Knights finish up their longest homestand of the season on Saturday night when they host the Washington Capitals in Las Vegas.
The seven-game homestand, tied for the second-longest in team history, was looked at as an opportunity for the Golden Knights to build on their lead in the Pacific Division. Instead, they've stumbled badly, going 1-4-0 in their last five games while also dropping into second-place behind the Seattle Kraken. Both teams have 58 points but the Kraken, who have one game in hand, hold the edge by percentage points (.644 to .630) and regulation wins (22-20).
Vegas has lost three games in a row for the first time this season and comes in off a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. The Golden Knights have allowed the first goal in five consecutive games and nine of their last 10.
After getting shut out by Dallas 4-0 on Monday afternoon, veteran center Jonathan Marchessault addressed the team in the locker room afterward.
"We're missing a lot of players right now," Marchessault said, referring to captain Mark Stone, forward William Carrier and defensemen Shea Theodore and Zach Whitecloud. "So everybody needs to step up, and I don't think that's what we're doing and that's why we're losing hockey games right now. After the (Dallas) game, I was super disappointed and I said my piece of mind."
Things didn't go much better in Thursday's loss to the Red Wings as Vegas fell behind 1-0 just 2:45 into the game on a Lucas Raymond goal and trailed 3-1 after two periods. William Karlsson's 6-on-5 goal with 43 seconds left cut the deficit to one but the Golden Knights managed just one shot on goal after that.
Afterward, coach Bruce Cassidy, who has been critical of his team's lack of effort and willingness to mix it up in the corners and in front of the net, again called out his team, including star center Jack Eichel.
"Without a full lineup, you're not going to win every night but we should be much more competitive," Cassidy said. "A little disappointed in the guys who weren't bringing it.
"To me, it's win races, win puck battles and you win hockey games, whatever your system is. I put it on that. We talked about that the last two days. Win your share of races, win your share of puck battles. We're not there in (those areas) right now, and that's why we're losing."
Eichel has one goal, one assist and a minus-eight plus-minus rating over the last five games.
"Jack just hasn't been the same driving force for us that he was at the beginning of the year at both ends of the ice, so expectations aren't being met by Jack," Cassidy said. "He needs to be better for us. We're down a few guys who create offense for us so he needs to be one of the drivers."
Washington, which is fourth in the Metropolitan Division, is 9-1-0 in its last 10 road contests and started a three-game western road trip with a 4-0 shutout over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday in Tempe, Ariz.
Darcy Kuemper made 26 saves for his league-leading fifth shutout of the season and Dylan Strome scored two goals to lead the Capitals. Washington finishes the trip on Tuesday at Colorado.
"I thought the guys came out and played hard for 60 minutes," Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. "The start of a trip I think it's always important to get off on the right foot. That's one (win) and we'll move on from here."
T-Mobile Arena provides plenty of fond memories for Washington which clinched the 2018 Stanley Cup inside the venue with a 4-3 victory in Game 5.
--Field Level Media