The opener of a season-long six-game road trip Sunday afternoon appeared to provide the Vegas Golden Knights their best opportunity to regain the consistency they displayed while moving to the top of the Pacific Division.
Instead, a loss to the lottery-bound Arizona Coyotes left the Golden Knights still seeking answers and another spark as they head across the country for a spate of games against fellow playoff contenders.
The Golden Knights will look to get back on track Tuesday night, when they are scheduled to make their lone visit to face the New Jersey Devils in Newark, N.J.
Both teams were off Monday after playing Sunday, when the Golden Knights fell to the Coyotes 4-1 and the host Devils earned a 2-1 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The loss was the fifth in the last seven games (2-5-0) for the Golden Knights, who have been outscored 24-17 during the slump. On Sunday, Vegas fell behind the Coyotes -- who have the fourth-fewest points in the NHL -- just 1:59 after faceoff and trailed wire-to-wire fewer than 24 hours after scoring the first five goals in a 6-2 win over the Washington Capitals.
The Golden Knights, whose lead in the Pacific Division has shrunk to one point over the Seattle Kraken and two points over the Los Angeles Kings, are 16-15-2 since racing out to a 13-2-0 start. Vegas also entered Monday just seven points clear of the Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames, who were tied for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
The urgency will be increased for Vegas, whose road trip includes games against three teams currently occupying a playoff spot -- the Devils, New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild. The Golden Knights also meet the New York Islanders and Nashville Predators, each of whom entered Monday three points out of the final wild-card spot in their respective conferences.
"We haven't been at our best and we need to find some consistency in our game and capitalize on opportunities and play well defensively," Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb said Sunday night. "We've got some learning to do. We're in a bit of a funk right now."
The Devils, who returned home Sunday after a season-long five-game road trip, continued to emerge from their own slump by winning for the sixth time in seven games. The seven-game point streak follows the longest tailspin of the season for New Jersey, which opened 21-4-1 before losing 10 of 13 (3-8-2) from Dec. 9 through Jan. 5.
The Devils entered Sunday with 27 goals in their previous six games but relied on a pair of well-timed scores Sunday, Jack Hughes collected his career-high 30th goal just 52 seconds into the first before Dougie Hamilton scored on the power play at the 2:07 mark of overtime.
Hamilton scored 37 seconds after a potential game-winning goal by Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson was waved off due to Pittsburgh having too many men on the ice.
The win began a pivotal stretch for the Devils, who are scheduled to visit the Predators and Dallas Stars in a back-to-back set Thursday and Friday.
"We were coming off a good road trip and this was the first of four games in six days," Devils head coach Lindy Ruff said. "I thought we played the game the right way. We didn't give up a lot of opportunities, gave ourselves a chance to win."
--Field Level Media