DENVER — There were no corks popping or champagne showers in the Golden Knights locker room after snapping a five-game home losing streak with a 5-1 win over Nashville on Saturday night.
But there was no denying a level of excitement not usually seen following a regular-season victory in mid-February.
“I didn’t go in after the game, but it was pretty noisy in there,” Knights’ coach Gerard Gallant said. “They were pretty excited and pretty happy. Our guys have been disappointed. You’ve seen me up here the last three or four times not too happy. Our guys are no different than what I am. They’re disappointed after the (losses) and tonight I thought they wanted to really come out and focus.”
The Knights desperately needed a positive result after losing three straight games and seven of their last nine while being outscored 16-4 in the third period.
Just as important, they needed to play well to start rebuilding their confidence.
“It was a good win for us in that it was just the way we want to play,” forward Paul Stastny said. “Just to get off the losing streak, play a good game at home, a full game where all 20 guys kind of stepped up. I think that’s really key.”
The Knights didn’t practice Sunday, but they’ll try to maintain an energy that led to 50 shots on goal against Nashville when they face the Colorado Avalanche at 6 p.m. Monday.
Veteran forward Max Pacioretty delivered one of his strongest performances of the season, scoring two goals and equalling a season-high with nine shots in a game after being bumped to the third line with Cody Eakin and Oscar Lindberg.
“It’s just the ups and downs of a season,” he said. “You learn as the years go on as a professional there’s different situations where maybe earlier in your career you may look at this little losing streak and say, ‘We’re never going to dig ourselves out of it.’ But a lot of the guys in here have been through that before …
“So when you do have a game like that, hopefully it sparks something in terms of confidence and a couple more wins.”
Pacioretty clearly fit into his new spot as he reunited with Eakin, but Lindberg really seemed to flourish in one of his better games Saturday.
The shakeup also helped invigorate the revamped second line as Alex Tuch recorded two assists to snap a seven-game streak without a point and Brandon Pirri scored a power play goal.
It was the kind of all-around performance the Knights would like to replicate as often as possible with 22 games left in the regular season.
“The right way just means not overthinking it,” Pacioretty said. “Make sure you go out there and if the play’s not there, you put it in behind the net and get to work. Often times during this stretch, when you don’t have confidence, you’re trying to force plays into tight areas. It seems to always come back down your throat and then you’re constantly backchecking and when you’re doing that, you’re not able to sustain that offensive zone time.”
Who: Golden Knights at Avalanche
When: 6 p.m. Monday
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver
TV: AT&T SportsNet (Cox 313/1313, DirecTV 684, CenturyLink 760/1760, U-verse 757/1757, Dish 414/5414)
Radio: KRLV (98.9 FM, 1340 AM); ESPN Deportes (1460 AM)
Line: Knights -130; total 6
How the Western Conference playoff pairings would look (team with home ice listed first).
Calgary (Pacific 1) vs. Minnesota (Wild card 2)
San Jose (Pacific 2) vs. Golden Knights (Pacific 3)
Winnipeg (Central 1) vs. Dallas (Wild card 1)
Nashville (Central 2) vs. St. Louis (Central 3)
Note: Calgary listed as Pacific Division winner due to less games played; not including Sunday’s games.
1. Who’s in net? Malcolm Subban delivered a solid performance Saturday as he allowed one goal on 30 shots in his first appearance since Jan. 6. It would be out of character for the Knights to sit starter Marc-Andre Fleury in a second straight game, but the 34-year-old netminder still leads the league in starts. He hasn’t allowed less than two goals in a game since Jan. 1 and his spectacular play for much of the season has started to show some cracks.
2. Feeling special. The Knights also were pleased with special teams play Saturday. Not only did they snap a streak of five straight games allowing at least one power play goal, but the Knights were able to score on the man-advantage for only the second time in seven games and looked more dangerous than in recent outings.
3. Scouting report. There’s not much mystery to how a team can beat Colorado. All eyes have to be on their explosive top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabe Landeskog. It’s among one of the best lines in the NHL and generally stopping them means shutting down the Avalanche. Colorado’s struggles have led to losses in nine of its last 10 games, including three in overtime. The Knights won the only previous meeting this season 2-1 at T-Mobile Arena in December.