The Vegas Golden Knights hoped to be taking a share of first place in the Pacific Division with them on their two-game road trip that begins Saturday night at Chicago.
But after having their season-best seven-game winning streak snapped by the San Jose Sharks, 3-2, on Thursday night, the defending Western Conference champions find themselves in third place, narrowly behind the Calgary Flames and the Sharks.
Still, not too shabby for a team just in its second season of existence. But after making a run to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, the bar has been set high.
The Golden Knights gave up two goals just 39 seconds apart midway through the third period and failed to take advantage of a late San Jose penalty and a six-on-four advantage for more than a minute in the loss to the Sharks. It was their first regulation home loss in almost two months, dating to a 4-1 setback to the St. Louis Blues on Nov. 16.
"I think we played a good game and we have been solid lately and we had a good stretch and we can't over-think it," said goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who leads the league in wins (25) and shutouts (six). "It was a good game. It was fast and intense. Tough loss, but we've got to put it behind and we will see them (again) soon."
Vegas defenseman Jon Merrill scored his first goal in 54 games.
"It's unfortunate to lose that one," he said. "I thought we had a strong effort but it's alright. We'll get back to the drawing board and start over a new streak in Chicago."
The Golden Knights, who came within one victory of matching the franchise record of eight straight wins, will try to bounce back against a Chicago team they have already defeated twice in two meetings this season. They are also 5-0-0 in franchise history against the Blackhawks.
Vegas (27-16-4) won the first meeting this season, 8-3, on Nov. 27 at the United Center as Cody Eakin and Shea Theodore each had two goals and an assist. The Golden Knights set a team record for goals in a game.
The Golden Knights then rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Blackhawks on Dec. 6 in Las Vegas as Jonathan Marchessault and Alex Tuch scored goals just 12 seconds apart midway through the third period to pull out the victory.
Chicago (16-22-8) have dropped four of their past five games, including a 4-3 overtime loss to Nashville on Wednesday night.
Chicago sent that game into overtime with a goal by Artem Anisimov off a Patrick Kane feed with 2:21 left in regulation. But the Predators came back to win it on a goal by Filip Forsberg in OT.
"Felt like we played well enough to be in a tie and a lot of times in those situations if you don't give them one for free, by being loose or taking too many unnecessary risks before it's too late, then a lot of times you do come through," Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton told NHL.com.
"I thought we made enough plays, liked the work ethic and compete-level."
Kane, who has scored two goals to go with six assists in his last four games, leads the Blackhawks in points (58), goals (24) and assists (34). But the 2016 Hart Trophy winner has registered just one goal and two assists in five career games against Vegas.
--Field Level Media