Predators down Golden Knights 5-3 in Theodore’s return

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY
The Golden Knights fell for the third time in four games thanks to a rocky performance against the Predators on Tuesday night.

LAS VEGAS — Bruce Cassidy decided to roll with Adin Hill in net on Tuesday just one day after Logan Thompson registered the Golden Knights’ first shutout since November. It was a decision that ended up costing the team, as Hill’s recent struggles continued and compounded in a 5-3 loss to the Predators on Monday night.

”For your first period, you need your goaltender to be really on. Because he’s the guy who didn’t play the night before,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “I didn’t think Hill was very sharp in the first period.”

“It just seems like some pucks found their way through,” he continued. “That’s a bit their game, they go to the net. Those are the ones early on to give your team some life and some juice, you need those saves.”

The game also marked Shea Theodore’s return to action after being out since Nov. 22 due to injury. Theodore is a welcome addition to a defensive unit that missed him mightily in his absence. In a corresponding move to free up enough cap space to activate Theodore, the Golden Knights moved Jack Eichel from the IR to the LTIR as Eichel looks to make his way back from knee surgery last month.

How it happened

The Predators drew first blood on a Luke Evangelista wrist shot after Paul Cotter tried a soccer move on the puck near the blue line and failed miserably. It was a bad goal for Hill to let up, but the blame was almost entirely diverted to Cotter for the mistake as he was punished by Cassidy in the form of a couple missed shifts.

Alex Pietrangelo put the Knights on the board with 5:51 remaining in the opening period, snapping a wrister past Predators goalie Kevin Lankinen courtesy of Alec Martinez’s primary assist. It was Pietrangelo’s third goal of the season and also the last time the Knights would show any meaningful life for the rest of the game.

Things got really awkward in the final minute of the opening period when former Golden Knight Cody Glass put the Predators ahead 2-1 with 54 seconds remaining. It was just the second goal of the season for Glass and the second goal of his career against his former club. It certainly had to feel good for him to make it happen again in front of the crowd at T-Mobile Arena.

The Predators extended their lead to 3-1 at the 8:04 mark of the middle stanza with a goal from third line center Tommy Novak courtesy of a primary assist from Ryan McDonagh and the secondary from Alexandre Carrier.

The Predators’ fourth goal came not long after when fourth line forward Cole Smith deflected a shot from Michael McCarron past Adin Hill and into the net. It was the second goal of the period from the team’s bottom six.

The Golden Knights fans got something to cheer for to start the third period. William Karlsson scored with six seconds left on a power-play to cut the Knights deficit down to 4-2, but the loudest cheers were elicited when Bruce the PA guy got on the microphone to credit Shea Theodore with the secondary assist in his return. It was Theodore’s first point since Nov. 18 in Philadelphia, two games before he suffered the upper-body injury that halted his season.

However, the celebration was soon met with a nerve-wracking reality. Within moments after Karlsson’s goal, word started to spread around the arena that Mark Stone had been ruled out for the game with an upper-body injury after he took a hit from Yakov Trenin late in the second period and didn’t come out for the third. Bruce Cassidy had no update on Stone’s prognosis after the game.

”We know how special of a player Mark is,” Alex Pietrangelo said to the media after the game. “It’s tough when your captain goes down like that. We tried to push as hard as we could for him. Those are the ones you want to win for your captain.”

The Golden Knights actually managed to cut the deficit down to one with just over a minute left in the game, but the comeback was short lived. Adin Hill was promptly pulled from the net to bring an extra man on the attack for the final minute but Gustav Nyquist quickly buried the empty-netter to settle the final score at 5-3.

Up next

The Golden Knights are at home again on Thursday. Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs are coming to town for a 7 p.m. puck drop at T-Mobile Arena.