DENVER — The Golden Knights hoped Saturday’s spectacular performance against Nashville would spark a turnaround from a disappointing slide that has them closer to falling out of the NHL playoffs than reaching the top of the Pacific Division.
Instead, they followed it up by being shut out for the first time since Dec. 17 and just the second time this season, falling 3-0 to the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on Monday night.
“Extremely disappointing to come out with the effort we had tonight,” defenseman Jon Merrill said. “(We were) feeling good about ourselves after the Nashville game. Just a reality check, I guess. Now we go back home and get back to the drawing board and hope to get another win on Wednesday.”
The Knights will have plenty of mistakes to sort through.
The Avalanche opened the scoring 6:36 into the game when Tyson Jost went hard on the forecheck and fought three Knights (32-25-4) for the puck in the corner before knocking it free from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare in front of the net. Merrill and Colin Miller appeared confused on who was going to take the puck, allowing Jost to turn and fire it past Malcolm Subban.
“There was a little bit of a miscommunication about who’s going to grab it there and we all kind of reached for it and then nobody got it,” Merrill said. “It just comes down to communication and being ready to play right off the bat and we weren’t tonight.”
It didn’t get much better from there as the Avalanche pulled away to snap a six-game home losing streak.
Andrew Agozzino scored his first career goal in the second period when Miller lost track of him in front and unsuccessfully tried to dive to the ice to block a pass from Gabriel Landeskog. Agozzino had no problem finishing on the far post to give the Avalanche an insurance goal early in the second period.
Miller was also on the ice for the final Colorado (24-24-11) goal when Matt Calvert batted in an airborne puck with 13:07 remaining in the game. The puck appeared to hit his glove, but the officials ruled the shot was powered in by his stick.
It was more than enough offense for Semyon Varlamov, who stopped all 40 shots he saw on the night.
“Our effort wasn’t as good (as Saturday) obviously, but I still thought we played a pretty good game,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. “We gave them too many chances for a team that has some talented players. The difference was their goalie was outstanding and ours was real good.
“We just couldn’t put the puck in the back of the net. I think it was one of those 6-5 hockey games and it ended up being 3-0 because both goalies were outstanding.”
Subban, making a second consecutive start for the first time this season, made 35 saves, including several with a high degree of difficulty.
“It’s tough to lose games like this,” he said. “I just have to try to make a couple more saves. We had some good chances, too, and their goaltender made a lot of good saves and that’s what it took tonight.”
While Gallant put a somewhat positive spin on the game, there wasn’t much optimism coming out of the locker room.
Forward Reilly Smith thought briefly about whether there was any part of the Knights’ performance he liked before answering in the negative.
Mostly, there was disappointment in not seizing on the positive momentum from Saturday.
“I don’t think we came out with the best start, but I don’t think last game was a reason for that,” he said. “We probably just didn’t have the legs tonight. Some games that’s going to happen and you just have to focus on executing and we didn’t do that either.”
Added McNabb: “It’s disappointing for sure. These are important points and an important time of year. We’re trying to gear up for the playoffs. We’re fortunate we’re in a playoff spot right now the way we’ve been playing lately. Nashville was a great step for us. We played great. It’s frustrating the way things turned out tonight.”
Now the Knights return home hoping not to carry momentum, but to find it again.
They will have a chance on Wednesday night when they open a four-game homestand against Boston at 7 p.m.
1. Where’s Oscar? Oscar Lindberg was one of several Knights players invigorated by the lineup changes Gerard Gallant made ahead of Saturday’s game as he scored a goal and played one of his best games of the season. The momentum couldn’t carry over. Lindberg was the only Knight skater not to record a shot on goal Monday night and his blocked shot and one faceoff win were the only dents he made in the boxscore in a game his 13 shifts and 11:52 of ice time were barely noticeable.
2. Shoot your shot. Jonathan Marchessault had a game-high seven shots on goal for the Knights, extending his streak of consecutive games with at least one to 111. It’s currently the fifth longest streak in the NHL, though he would have a long way to go to catch the leader. Carolina’s Dougie Hamilton’s streak currently stands at 224, nearly 100 ahead of Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon and New Jersey’s Taylor Hall, who are both at 128.
3. Dominate the circle. If the Knights did want to look for a silver lining from Monday’s loss, they could look to the faceoff column on the stat sheet. Vegas won 31 of 45 faceoffs on the night, good for 69 percent. Through two periods, they had won an astonishing 24 of 30. William Karlsson won 13 of the 16 he took and Paul Stastny won six of seven. The Knights entered the game 18th in the league at 49.6 percent.
Adam Hill Review-Journal