LAS VEGAS — It was bound to happen.
The Vegas Golden Knights weren’t going 82-0. But if you were among the 18,338 inside T-Mobile Arena Friday afternoon, you figured they would be at least 8-0 given the team’s fast start against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Knights led 2-0 less than four minutes into the Nevada Day matinee and it certainly appeared they were going to remain the NHL’s lone undefeated team. But Connor Bedard and the Blackhawks had other ideas.
Bedard, the top overall pick in the 2023 draft who is considered to be the next generational player in the league a la another Connor (McDavid), scored in the first period to tie the game 2-2, then drew a tripping penalty by William Karlsson in overtime, opening the door for Philipp Kurashev to beat Adin Hill as the Hawks left Vegas 4-3 winners.
Surprised? Don’t be. It’s the NHL. Stuff happens.
So everyone’s got an L. But the Knights still have the distinction of having the best start of any defending Stanley Cup champion with their 7-0 start. But as sloppy as they were Friday, they still came out of it with a point. They’re still a very good hockey team, even if they go awry for several minutes at a time at various junctures, as was the case in the 3-2 win over Philadelphia thanks to Shea Theodore’s goal with 31 seconds remaining, you wonder if they can overcome it. They were able to do Tuesday against the Flyers. Friday against the Blackhawks, they came up short.
“It was such a quick lead,” Knights coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I didn’t think we were dominant doing it. I just thought we mismanaged pucks all night. Most of their offense came from our mistakes. We did not execute at an NHL level and it wound up catching up to us.”
Forward Brett Howden said: “That wasn’t up to our standard. Stuff wasn’t clicking right. We started well but we kinda let the game get away from us after being up two.”
Credit the Blackhawks, who are trying to figure out what their identity is, for staying with it. Bedard, who has scored two of his three NHL goals to date against Vegas and is second on the team in scoring with five points (Corey Perry has six), seems right at ease playing against men.
“He shows a lot of poise,” Karlsson said of Bedard. “He’s got high skill and he obviously has a really good shot.”
Bedard will terrorize everyone in due time. For the Knights, it’s about making sure this doesn’t manifest itself into an early-season slide. The Kings are certainly considered challengers in the Pacific Division and despite Vegas having 15 points, Los Angeles can chip away with a win Saturday and inch closer. The Kings were 3-2-1 going into Friday’s game at Arizona.
Cassidy didn’t seem too worried about his team’s response come Saturday.
“We’re a mature team,” Cassidy said. “I’m sure our guys will look in he mirror and realize they weren’t very good (tonight), especially the guys we rely on a little more than others. They’ve got to put it behind them It’s one of 82. That’s what I hope they think. ‘Let’s not do it again. Let’s not repeat it.’ We haven’t seen a lot of those this year so that should get our attention.”
Apparently it did.
“The good thing is we’re right back at it tomorrow night,” Howden said. “We’ll be ready to go.”
Karlsson said: You don’t want to lose. We have a game tomorrow we have to get ready for.”