TORONTO — With the losses starting to mount and the same mistakes being repeated, Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant needed a different tactic to get through to his players.
Gallant called a team meeting Friday in hopes the message finally will sink in.
“We have to start playing our game. We’re not playing the style that we would like. That’s something we have to get back to,” defenseman Shea Theodore said before Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Carolina at T-Mobile Arena.
“Everyone was in there. Coach called it. It’s one of those things that we have to take a step back, kind of re-evaluate the way we’re playing and kind of our team. I think it’s good, and I think we have to get back on the same page.”
The closed-door meeting was rare for Gallant, who usually allows the team’s leadership group to police the locker room and hold teammates accountable. According to one player, Gallant called for a similar gathering on one occasion last season.
The idea this time was to make sure everyone was in the room together and heard firsthand when Gallant’s points were driven.
“Whatever Coach says right from the start, we had talked together after the (St. Louis) game, and we knew those things,” center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. “The coach reinforced it. That we all heard it in the same room together, it’s going to help for us to get back to a team game and focus on the 60 minutes and the small task in front of each player during the game.”
The Knights lost four of five (1-3-1) before the meeting, including both games on the road last week, and have been plagued with inconsistency.
Against Nashville on Tuesday, the Knights dominated the first period but allowed multiple odd-man rushes in the final 40 minutes of the 4-1 defeat.
It was a similar story in St. Louis on Thursday, as the Blues capitalized on the Knights’ defensive lapses to win 5-3.
That’s when Gallant finally had seen enough.
“It’s just one of those things like, ‘Let’s just hit the reset button,’ ” defenseman Brad Hunt said. “It was nothing huge or major. It’s just time to get back to the way we know we can play, simple as that.”
The message appeared to get through to the Knights on Saturday against the Hurricanes. Despite being outshot, it was one of the few times they’ve resembled the team that advanced to the Stanley Cup Final last season.
Gallant rolled his forward lines, with fourth-line wingers Ryan Reaves and William Carrier producing goals. Hunt also notched his first of the season, and the Knights silenced the Hurricanes’ high-scoring top line that features Sebastian Aho.
“When you keep the mindset and you’re working hard in practice continuously every day, I think that’s the way we have to look at it,” Theodore said. “We can’t focus on what’s coming a couple of months from now. Obviously it puts us in a worse position if we keep playing like the way we have been playing.”
With their slow start, the Knights (6-7-1, 13 points) are seventh in the Pacific Division, six points behind front-running Calgary.
The Knights traveled Sunday and meet the Maple Leafs (9-5-0, 18 points) on Tuesday at Scotiabank Arena to start a difficult four-game trip.
“When you’re (facing) adversity the only thing you can do is focus on what’s right in front of you,” Bellemare said. “You look at yourself now and you know what you’ve done right and what you’ve done wrong, and the coaches are really honest with us. But there’s nothing that we can do about what happened.”