Gerard Gallant stayed in the Golden Knights locker room longer than normal after Tuesday’s loss “spreading some truth,” according to defenseman Nate Schmidt.
And then the coach, who rarely blasts his team in public, didn’t hold back with the media, either.
“I don’t like the way we played,” said a visibly frustrated Gallant. “I thought we played about 10 minutes of real good hockey tonight. There was no passion in our game. There was no aggressive forecheck in our game. We played a soft game and, in my opinion, we gave them three goals from our mistakes, not from what they deserved.
“I’ll give them credit, but when you give them three goals like that, you’re not going to win many games.”
The Knights showed little pushback in the third period and suffered a 5-2 loss to the Arizona Coyotes before an announced crowd of 18,212 at T-Mobile Arena.
Brandon Pirri and Schmidt scored in the second period for the Knights, who tied a franchise record with their fourth straight loss at home. The Knights dropped four in a row from Feb. 27 through March 16.
The Knights fell to 16-8-3 at home and haven’t won at T-Mobile since Jan. 19. The four-game homestand concludes with games against Toronto on Thursday and Nashville on Saturday.
“It should cost to score on us, and right now they’re not working much harder to get those goals, and that’s the problem,” Knights center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. “We are making it a little too easy for them. … They came out in the third in our building and they wanted it more than us, and that’s not acceptable.”
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was unable to earn his 30th victory and finished with 21 saves.
The Knights faltered in the third period for the third time in their past four home games. Columbus erased a 3-2 lead with two goals in the third period Saturday, and Minnesota broke a 2-2 tie with two goals in the third Jan. 21.
“They came out strong, and they had a couple power plays early (in the third) and got some momentum out of it,” Fleury said. “I feel like that third period used to be our strong one where we finish teams. It’s not happening now, and maybe we have to play well defensively — myself included — to give us a chance to stay in the game.”
Arizona, which had lost five of its past six, broke a 2-2 tie with 10:39 left in the third period when Vinnie Hinostroza threw a pass in front that Nick Cousins banged in for his sixth goal.
The Coyotes went ahead 4-2 with 2:12 left when Josh Archibald flipped a backhand past Fleury after Schmidt slid to stop his pass on a 2-on-1.
Richard Panik added an empty-net goal for the Coyotes, who hosted their Dad’s Trip.
“The other team come in our building and somehow are battling more than we are,” Bellemare said. “We’re not in a bad situation, but it’s happening too often. We’re just going to have to make sure we play consistent every shift.
“We know we have a solid group. It’s just we’re going to have to go back to what we know best, and it’s just working as hard as we can to get those goals.”
The Coyotes were content to clog the neutral zone in the first period, and their bend-but-don’t-break system was effective at slowing the game despite the Knights holding a 16-6 advantage in shots on goal.
Arizona cashed in on a power play to go up 1-0 midway through the second period when defenseman Jordan Oesterle sneaked in from the point and converted a cross-ice feed from Derek Stepan that left Fleury with no chance.
Alex Galchenyuk gave the Coyotes a 2-0 lead with six minutes remaining in the second when he streaked down the left wing and made a move around Fleury for his team-leading 12th goal before crashing into the net.
But the Knights answered less than 30 seconds later when Cody Eakin dug out a loose puck behind the net and found Pirri at the left dot for his ninth goal and first point in his past seven games.
Schmidt then tied the score 2-2 with 29.7 seconds remaining in the second when he collected a pass from Max Pacioretty at the right point and snapped a low shot past Kuemper to set a career high with his sixth goal.
“You don’t want to go through those slumps and let it drag for too long,” Fleury said. “You want to come out of it quickly. … We can play with the best teams around the league. It’s so frustrating when you lose a few like that.”
1. Denied. Forward Reilly Smith was awarded a penalty shot with 3:27 left in the second period and the Golden Knights trailing 2-1. Smith made a quick move to his backhand, but his shot caught the post and stayed out.
2. Points from blue line. Defenseman Nate Schmidt scored the tying goal in the second period, which was his 100th career NHL point and also set a career high for goals in a season with six. It was the third straight game and fourth in the past six a Knights defenseman has scored.
3. Slumping Tuch. Forward Alex Tuch was held without a point for the sixth straight game after he posted 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in his previous 13. Tuch hadn’t gone more than two straight games without a point until his recent spell.
David Schoen Review-Journal