Bad things came for the Golden Knights in threes Thursday night.
The Knights’ re-worked third line and third defensive pair struggled against the Philadelphia Flyers and played a large part in their 5-2 season-opening loss at T-Mobile Arena. Defensemen Nick Holden and Jonathan Merrill were on the ice for three of the Flyers’ goals and forwards Tomas Nosek, Oscar Lindberg and Ryan Carpenter failed to make up for key absences.
“I felt we played a little slower than we usually did,” Merrill said. “We didn’t move the puck as quickly as we usually do.”
The Knights put Nosek, Lindberg and Carpenter together with forwards Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin on injured reserve, and the latter two were missed. The third line was on the ice for two goals against and tallied a combined six shots.
Thursday was a chance for Lindberg and Carpenter to prove themselves because one may have to go when Tuch and Eakin are ready to return. The Knights’ roster stands at 22, so taking the forwards off IR would put the team one over the 23-man roster limit.
The team’s new-look trio never got going though and had a hard time controlling the puck. Things weren’t much better for the Knights’ third defensive pair.
Merrill assisted on the team’s first goal 6:37 into the first period after having only three assists all of last season. But less than five minutes later, he made a bad pinch on the offensive blue line and the Flyers went down the ice and scored.
Merrill and Holden, the Knights’ lone free-agent defenseman acquisition, were on the ice as well when Philadelphia scored near the end of the first period and took the lead for good.
They were on the ice for one more Philadelphia goal in the second period, one of three in that period that turned the game into a rout.
“They kind of opened up the score and we were chasing the rest of the game,” Merrill said.
The two had never played in a regular-season game together, but Merrill said that wasn’t an excuse.
“I don’t think that played into it too much. It’s just a matter of us going flat there for a little bit. That’s all it takes,” Merrill said. “I thought we came out flat and then we lost our game.”