CALGARY, Alberta — Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant took a long pause before giving a short assessment of how his team played in the first period on Monday night.
“You saw it,” he said gruffly.
The Knights allowed five goals in the first 16:57 and eventually surrendered their most goals of the season in a 7-2 loss to the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome.
“It was a lack of effort,” defenseman Nick Holden said of what went wrong a night after the Knights played one of their better games of the season in a 6-3 win at Edmonton. “They just picked us apart in our defensive zone. It just looked like we were two steps behind. I don’t know if it was systematically or what it was, but it just can’t happen again.”
The Knights (9-12-1) trailed 7-0 before Holden and Max Pacioretty scored in the third period to salvage some respectability.
It was the kind of game a team might otherwise collectively decide to pretend never happened and just burn the tape and try to move on.
The Knights don’t have that luxury, according to forward Reilly Smith.
“There’s too many games this year where that has happened,” he said. “We’re probably going to have to dissect this one.
“It’s a game you want to forget, but there’s a lot of things we have to clean up.”
The Flames skated circles around the Knights early and freed players for shots all over the ice.
Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk each had four points for the Flames (12-8-1).
Sean Monahan scored twice and added an assist for Calgary, which scored three times on the power play.
The Knights hadn’t allowed more than five goals in a game this season before Monday, but conceded five in the first period with Malcolm Subban starting in net in place of Marc-Andre Fleury on the second night of a back-to-back.
“Physically, we were slower. Mentally, we were slower. Lost assignments. No recognition on our backcheck really cost us,” Smith said. “We gave them way too many chances and if not for some of the saves (Subban) made, it would have been 14-0.”
Added Holden: “Obviously that’s unacceptable the way we played in the first two periods. We left (Subban) out to dry on almost every one of these goals. Even with what we gave up he still had to make five or six unbelievable saves to not let any more in. Yes, you want to forget about it but you need to make sure you’re learning from it because we cannot have this happen again.”
The late goals didn’t do a whole lot to salvage any sort of momentum coming out of yet another disappointing loss for a team expected to contend in the Western Conference that now finds itself slipping further and further in the standings.
“I don’t have the answers for you right now, but we’re supposed to be a fast team and that was probably the slowest we’ve played all year,” Smith said. “That cost us a lot and put us behind the eight ball in the first period and really lost that game for us early.”
Gallant had hoped his team would be able to build off the momentum of Sunday night’s victory.
It was clear early that wasn’t going to be the case.
“It’s hard to believe this happened tonight the way we played last night, but that’s hockey, I guess,” he said. “I’m pretty disappointed and I hope (the players) are disappointed because they didn’t show up,”
The Knights have a day off to figure things out before wrapping up the three-game road trip against the Coyotes in Arizona on Wednesday.
It will be a long flight.