BUFFALO, N.Y. — Granted, it’s a small sample size. But three games into the Golden Knights’ season, two disturbing trends continue to play out.
1. They’re making costly lapses in the defensive zone.
2. They’re struggling to score despite generating plenty of shots.
“I didn’t like anything again today,” a clearly frustrated Gerard Gallant said Monday after his team’s 4-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres before an announced Columbus Day crowd of 16,004 at KeyBank Center.
“We didn’t play good enough to win the hockey game. I’d like to say just because we had lots of shots and that, but they were the better team. They were more committed to winning today, and we didn’t show up good enough.”
The Knights coach made similar comments following the Knights’ 5-2 loss on opening night when Philadelphia scored three goals in the second period.
Buffalo scored on its first three shots of the second Monday, as the Knights were caught puck watching in their own zone on too many occasions.
“Too many grade-A (chances), obviously,” forward Max Pacioretty said. “We can’t leave our goaltender out to dry like that.”
It only gets tougher for the Knights (1-2), who continue their five-game road trip at Washington on Wednesday in a rematch of last year’s Stanley Cup Final.
From there, the Knights head to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with the possibility of a 1-5 start staring them in the face.
“We’re just not doing our job,” Jonathan Marchessault said. “Our forwards are supposed to do a lot of work, too, back-checking, reloading and we’re not doing that. We need to give options on the walls (for our defensemen). We’re not playing a good game.”
The Knights outshot Buffalo 37-17, but unlike Saturday’s game at Minnesota, there were few quality chances.
Marchessault notched a goal and an assist against the Sabres and has four points through three games. William Karlsson picked up his first points of the season, assisting on both of the Knights goals.
Nobody else on the Knights has more than one point, though.
And after finishing fifth in the league with 3.27 goals per game last season, the Knights have scored five times this season (1.67 goals per game).
“Sometimes when the puck’s not going in you can do a little bit better job crashing the net and make it a little harder on their defense to box you out and try to score those greasy goals,” right wing Reilly Smith said. “We’re not doing a good enough job of doing that right now. You have to adapt your game if the puck’s not going in.”
The Knights trailed after the first period for the third consecutive game, as Buffalo captain Jack Eichel scored a power-play goal with 5:29 left in the first. Eichel put the Sabres up 2-0 when he was left uncovered in the slot early in the second period.
Erik Haula cut the Knights’ deficit in half less than three minutes later, but Buffalo answered with two goals 1:28 apart.
Marco Scandella’s shot from the point deflected off Karlsson’s backside and fluttered past Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury at 8:15. Jason Pominville put the Sabres on top 4-1 at 9:43 when he eluded the backcheck of Oscar Lindberg in the slot and buried a feed from Evan Rodrigues.
Fleury, who finished with 13 saves, made four stops in the final two periods.
“It’s always frustrating when you lose, it doesn’t matter what the score is or how it happened,” Fleury said. “I’m confident we’re a group of guys that if we play the way we did the second half of the game, we should be in good shape.”
1. Slash and burn. Golden Knights center Paul Stastny was assessed two slashing penalties in the first period, and the Sabres capitalized on their second opportunity with the man advantage. The free-agent signee leads the team with six penalty minutes and is yet to record a point.
2. Line changes. Coach Gerard Gallant switched his bottom six forwards late in the second period, reuniting the International Line (Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, William Carrier and Tomas Nosek) and moving Ryan Reaves to the third line. “Just trying to do something,” Gallant said.
3. Power play struggles. The Knights failed to score on both of their power plays and are 0-for-8 this season. They had four shots on goal with the man advantage and generated almost as many when short-handed (three).
David Schoen Review-Journal