After helping the Vegas Golden Knights become just the third expansion team to begin its inaugural season 2-0, the Arizona Coyotes get another shot at the team when the two meet Tuesday at T-Mobile Arena on the Strip.
The teams first met Saturday, a significant day in Coyotes history. It marked the anniversary of the first win in team history (1996). It was also the organization’s first meeting with the Golden Knights.
The day started with the club’s first red carpet introduction. Players and front office personnel walked through the main gate of Gila River Arena talking to fans and signing autographs. The media crew came through, too, including new radio announcer Paul Bissonnette.
Before a game that featured a sellout crowd of 17,125, the organization held a moment of silence for those affected by the shooting on the Las Vegas strip. Fans around the arena had signs and shirts that read, “Vegas Strong.”
The Golden Knights recently announced the Foley Family Charitable Foundation and the Chicago Wolves, Vegas’ AHL affiliate, would donate $200,000 to those affected.
The singing of the national anthem by “America’s Got Talent” finalist and Arizona native Evie Claire followed the moment of silence.
Tuesday’s home opener for Vegas will not be much different than Saturday’s festivities for the Coyotes.
The Golden Knights will begin their day with a gold carpet walk followed by a fan march to the T-Mobile Arena. The march will start New York-New York Hotel and will finish through the arena front doors.
Vegas has also announced that a member of the Route 91 Harvest Festival Team, the site of the deadly Las Vegas shooting, will perform the national anthem accompanied by 14 other members of the festival team.
T-Mobile arena will not feature any advertisements on the boards during the game. Rather, they will have the words “Vegas Strong” flooding the ice.
The Coyotes started off hot in their first meeting with Vegas and took a one-goal lead 5:52 into the game. The goal, scored by Tobias Rieder, was his first of the season.
Rieder’s goal was the only scored by the Coyotes and was not enough to win the game.
The Coyotes held a one-goal lead going into the third period until Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt put his team on the board with 1:12 remaining in the game.
Arizona would eventually lose in overtime when James Neal scored the deciding goal.
Despite the loss, Coyotes’ goalie Antii Raanta shined in his debut, saving 42 shots on 44 attempts.
“I felt great,” Raanta said. “We came up a little bit short but we are going to learn from it. It’s tough but you need to be fair to the game.”
Raanta is coming off a lower body injury that kept him off the ice in the team’s season opener against Anaheim.
The loss to Vegas marked the second game in a row the Coyotes couldn’t hold onto an early lead.
“I think we sat back again,” Rieder said. “They (the Golden Knights) were coming full force in the second period and we just didn’t play well enough.”
Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson was disappointed with losing the lead for the second game in a row.
“We’ve been talking about that for two days now,” Ekman-Larsson said. “We have had the chance to get two points but we can’t close it out and play when we need to.”
The loss, which moves the team to 0-2, has coach Rick Tocchet searching for his first win with the team.
“Overtime we had a bunch of chances,” Tocchet said. “There was that middle part of the game where we sat back.”
Golden Knights forward James Neal has scored the winning goal in both games this season. Vegas defeated the Dallas Stars 2-1 on Friday.
“(Friday) one of the best feelings I’ve had in hockey,” Neal said. “We said we wanted to roll it up again today and get a big win and go home a happy team and we did that.”
The Golden Knights’ veteran presence on the bench and ability to play smart hockey kept them from getting frustrated with the slow start, Neal said.
Tocchet doesn’t believe the loss is a byproduct of a young inexperienced team.
“We don’t want to give young guys excuses around here, “Tocchet said. “That’s the first mandate.”
General manager John Chayka, however, announced Monday the team would recall forward Mario Kempe and assign cent Dylan Strome to the AHL Tucson Roadrunners.
This is the second year in a row Strome has made the Coyotes out of camp to be eventually reassigned to the AHL affiliate.
The game against Vegas will be Kempe’s NHL debut and he is expected to play on the same line as Christian Dvorak and Anthony Duclair.
Kempe said the Golden Knights are a new rival and the team needs to feel that intensity.
“We’ve got to step up now and get that win in their building this time,” Kempe said.
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