Coach Travis Green said his Vancouver Canucks came to play on Saturday night but simply got out worked by a team positioned to once again be a playoff juggernaut.
The Vegas Golden Knights struck the Canucks early and often, scoring five goals in the first 15 minutes en route to a 6-2 trouncing.
“I thought our young guys competed tonight,” Green said. “We got a young team dressed against a veteran team that’s poised to try and win a Cup. That’s a tough game to play once they have a first period like that. But I thought our team kept coming at them.”
Vegas (38-26-5) has now won six games in a row and outscored its opponents 24-9 throughout the streak. With 81 points, the squad currently sits in fifth in the Western Conference.
Two of the Golden Knights’ recent victories have been against Vancouver (28-31-9), which was shutout 3-0 in Nevada last Sunday.
“If there’s one bright side, we were better tonight than we were in Vegas,” Green said. “But we couldn’t contain in the first period, we just couldn’t. They were stronger on the puck around our net and we just couldn’t tie them up and we were under water a little bit.”
Saturday was another tough loss because every time the Canucks had a good shift, the Knights would come back even stronger, said left-winger Antoine Roussel.
“It’s tough when you lose 6-2, it’s frustrating,” he said.
“But it’s a good lesson for us, for our young team to go out there and see what’s a playoff team, a contender, a team that went to the final.”
Mark Stone scored his first goal in a Golden Knights jersey 1:32 into Saturday’s game, popping a back-handed shot from the slot past Canucks netminder Jacob Markstrom.
“It took a little bit longer than I hoped,” said the 26-year-old right-winger, who’s also notched two assists since the Ottawa Senators dealt him to Vegas at the trade deadline.
“The way the guys are playing right now is awesome and it’s awesome to be able to contribute.”
Paul Stastny, Alex Tuch, Tomas Nosek, Cody Eakin and Nate Schmidt also scored for the Knights.
The Canucks got goals from Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat, while Alex Biega tallied two assists.
Marc-Andrew Fleury had 29 saves for Vegas in his 34th win of the season and 438th of his career to move past Jacques Plante for eighth on the all-time list.
“It’s a little surreal, right?” Fleury said of the accomplishment. “He’s a guy that has done so much for the game and obviously being from close to Montreal, I never got to watch him play but I heard a lot about him and saw videos of him and it’s an honour to be right there with him.”
But the 34-year-old said getting a win on Saturday was more important.
“We’ve been playing better hockey lately and it shows,” he said. “I think every night we are tough to beat so we have to keep this rolling and see where it takes us.”
Markstrom stopped 11 of the 16 shots he faced before he was replaced with Thatcher Demko midway through the first period on Saturday.
Canucks make a pair of trade deadline deals
Demko turned away 16-of-17 shots.
Getting pulled was embarrassing, Markstrom said.
“There’s nothing I love more than being with the boys on the ice and battling and playing hockey games so you never want to be in that situation where you don’t want to play anymore,” he said. “So it was frustrating.”
Biega admitted that the goalie didn’t get enough help from the guys playing in front of him.
“Collectively as a unit we have to do better,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we have to defend quicker. We’ve got to get those loose pucks and find a way to be hard against their skill. We play a grindy game and when we do, we have success.”
Vegas will look to extend its win streak when it faces the Flames in Calgary on Sunday.
The Canucks will host the New York Rangers on Wednesday.
NOTES: Roussel assisted on Horvat’s goal, tallying his 30th point of the season and marking a new career-high. The 29-year-old left-winger previously had 29 points for the Dallas Stars in both 2013-2014 and 2015-2016. … Jake Virtanen played 16:04 in his return to the Canucks lineup on Saturday. He missed 10 games after breaking two ribs in a collision with Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 13. … Vancouver has a single regulation win in its last 17 games.
© 2019 The Canadian Press