The Golden Knights blew their chance to gain ground on the Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division, and their playoff hopes lessened severely with just five games left to play. Vegas is three points back of Los Angeles in the division and four points back of Dallas and Nashville for a wild-card berth.
In a rare win for the Devils — their 13th in their last 40 games — Andreas Johnsson and Jesper Boqvist also scored, while Andrew Hammond made 42 saves. It was Hammond’s first win as a Devil; he’s playing with his third organization this season and made just his eighth NHL appearance of the season.
Taking advantage of a Vegas turnover in its own zone, Devils center Michael McLeod fired a slap shot that Lehner stopped, but Bastian skated by at the right time to tap home the rebound and give New Jersey an early lead in the opening period.
The Golden Knights got the equalizer late in the second period from the unlikeliest of candidates, as Kolesar skated down the right side and sent the puck across the slot, then off New Jersey defenseman P.K. Subban’s skate and past Hammond.
Vegas’ offensive flame was quickly extinguished early in the third, when Johnsson grabbed a rebound on the right side of the goal and sent it top shelf over Lehner’s glove to put New Jersey back in front by a goal.
Boqvist essentially sealed things midway through the third, when he drove in and around Alex Pietrangelo and slid the puck into the net. It appeared Lehner never even saw the attempt, as he watched Boqvist skate into the corner for at least two seconds before realizing the puck was in the net.
With Lehner pulled for a man advantage, Stephenson made it a one-goal game with 1:14 left in the game, but Vegas couldn’t tie it.
New Jersey: Hosts Buffalo on Thursday.
Vegas: Hosts Washington on Wednesday.