Las Vegas is a place where a lot of people arrive with high hopes and leave with empty pockets.
And sometimes, more than a few regrets.
Which is all the Penguins have to show for their trip there.
Oh, it started well enough — the Penguins had two strong periods and seemed to be building on their 3-0 victory against Seattle Monday — but they unraveled during the third period, giving up three goals in a span of four minutes, 22 seconds as a 2-0 lead mutated into a 3-2 loss to the Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena Saturday night.
Had the Penguins (21-16-6) won, they would have climbed to within one point of the second wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference playoff field.
Although neither team scored during the opening period, both had a number of quality scoring chances.
The Penguins got a pair during the second minute of play, as a foray by the third line led to a flurry around Vegas goaltender Logan Thompson shortly before Erik Karlsson and Evgeni Malkin had a 2-on-1 break that short-circuited when Malkin was unable to get his stick on a bouncing puck.
The Golden Knights got the only two power plays of the period, as Noel Acciari was sent off for tripping Vegas’ Chandler Stephenson at 3:16 and Drew O’Connor tripped Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb at 12:56.
Vegas generated just one shot on goal during each of those two man-advantages, and did not seriously threaten to score on either.
Tristan Jarry kept the game scoreless with an excellent glove save at 4:46 of the second period, after Golden Knights forward Brett Howden got behind the Penguins’ defense and broke down the slot alone.
The Penguins finally broke the dual-shutout at 9:02, when defenseman Ryan Graves carried the puck through the left circle and, after faking a shot as he got close to the net, continued to below the goal line before banking the puck off Vegas goalie Logan Thompson and into the net for his third of the season.
Assists went to Karlsson, who has an eight-game points streak, and Malkin.
Scoring the first goal was particular significant because the Golden Knights are 19-4-2 when they get it, including 14-1-1 when they do it at home.
Graves then drew a holding minor from Vegas forward Nicolas Roy at 11:20, but the Penguins, who had been 0-for-10 on the power play in their previous three games, were unable to capitalize on that chance with the extra man.
Their failure to convert on that man-advantage didn’t have a significant impact on their momentum, though, and Jake Guentzel beat Thompson with a wrist shot from above the right dot at 14:01 for a 2-0 lead.
The goal, which gave Guentzel 20 for the seventh consecutive season, netted assists for Sidney Crosby and Marcus Pettersson.
The Penguins appeared to be in control at the second intermission, but that changed before the middle of the third.
Jonathan Marchessault ended Jarry’s bid for his second shutout in a row at 5:18, when he flipped in an Ivan Barbashev rebound from the front edge of the crease.
Vegas then pulled even at 6:52, as Stephenson’s centering pass from below the goal line glanced off Jarry’s skate and slid to Pavel Dorofeyev in front of the net.
The Penguins killed a slashing minor assessed to Malkin at 7:31, but just nine seconds after he returned, Brendan Brisson put the Golden Knights in front, 3-2, by beating Jarry from above the left hash.
It was the first NHL goal for Brisson, the son of high-profile NHL agent Pat Brisson.
Coach Mike Sullivan replaced Jarry with an extra attacker with 1:53 left in regulation, but Bryan Rust picked up a slashing minor at 19:17 to snuff any chance they had of forcing overtime.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are scheduled to practice in suburban Phoenix Sunday at 3:30 p.m., Eastern. They will play Arizona Monday at 9:08 p.m., Eastern at Mullett Arena in Tempe, Ariz.