DENVER — Different lineup, same result.
The Golden Knights brought a more veteran group to the Pepsi Center on Tuesday for their second NHL preseason game and they came through with a 4-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche that improved the first-year club to 2-0.
The Knights opened the preseason Sunday with a 9-4 road victory over the Vancouver Canucks, playing a lot of their young players. On Tuesday, the lineup was closer to what opening night Oct. 6 in Dallas may look like.
“I think everyone’s quickly getting used to playing together,” said center Oscar Lindberg, who came over from the New York Rangers in the expansion draft. “You try to find a comfort level out there and it’s not that hard to adjust.”
Coach Gerard Gallant said good players know how to conform.
“These guys know how to play the game,” he said. “But it’s nice to see everyone working together this early.
“We’re still learning and growing. But that’s what these games are for.”
Goals by Brad Hunt, Jonathan Marchessault and Lindberg over a 2:31 span in the first period gave the Knights a 3-0 lead. Marchessault’s and Lindberg’s goals came on the power play as the Knights showed patience and effectiveness with the man advantage for the second straight game.
“We really haven’t worked a lot on the power play,” Gallant said. “But we’re moving the puck pretty good and we’re getting quality chances.”
The Knights went 2 for 6 with the man advantage, but were 2 for 3 when holding a two-man advantage.
The bigger concern was the penalties taken. The Knights were called for nine penalties, four on forward Paul Thompson and two on defenseman Luca Sbisa. They killed all but one of them, with Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon batting the puck out of the air during a 5-on-3 power play and getting it by Oscar Dansk with 2:57 left in the second period. Dansk had replaced Maxime Lagace in goal midway through the second period after Lagace turned aside all seven Colorado shots he faced.
“We had too many penalties over the second half of the game and that’s where things got a little sloppy for us,” Gallant said.
“We got those three early goals out of the gate and we played really good hockey the first half of the game.”
But the penalties disrupted any flow the Knights had built. The NHL has instructed its officials to call slashing penalties no matter how slight and four of the Knights’ nine penalties Tuesday were slashing minors. They also had a face-off infraction called which led to a delay of game minor. The face-offs are another point of emphasis by the league this preseason.
“It’s frustrating for players. It’s frustrating for coaches,” Gallant said. “But they’re going to call it tight and everyone knows it. You work with it and you play through it.”
The Knights’ penalty killing unit was outstanding. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, David Perron, Reilly Smith and Nick Suzuki all had a hand in killing the penalties as the Avalanche were just 1 for 8 with the man advantage.
“Yeah, they did a really good job,” Gallant said of the effort by his penalty killers as defensemen Deryk Engelland, Colin White, Jason Garrison and Jon Merrill also had a big role in helping with the penalty kill, blocking shots and clogging the passing lanes. “We got a lot of practice with the penalty kill tonight.”
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