Knights need to refocus vs. Penguins in first back-to-back test

Updated October 10, 2018 - 9:48 pm

WASHINGTON — The Golden Knights lost their Stanley Cup Final rematch Wednesday mostly because they couldn’t stop the Washington Capitals’ two-headed behemoth of Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin.

Their reprieve is playing two future Hall of Fame centers Thursday.

The Knights’ next stop is Pittsburgh to face Sidney Crosby, Evegeni Malkin and the rest of the Penguins in the first of 12 back-to-back scenarios for Vegas this season.

“That’s hockey. You’ve got to make sure now that we get on the plane, get to Pittsburgh and we’re focused on that,” defenseman Nick Holden said after the Knights’ 5-2 loss to the Capitals. “In hockey it’s a good thing that you can play the next day because you can learn from this game but then get focused and ready for the next one.”

The Knights will have to learn quickly from their mistakes guarding Kuznetsov (four points Wednesday) and Ovechkin (two goals) to make sure the Penguins’ power duo doesn’t have the same success. The Capitals’ playmakers were rested with six days between games.

Pittsburgh also figures to be fresh after not having played since Saturday. The Penguins lost that game 5-1 to the Montreal Canadiens, two days after defeating the Capitals 7-6 in overtime at home in their season opener.

“I think (the Knights are) a team that had a great year last year, have a lot of confidence built because of that,” Crosby told reporters in Pittsburgh on Wednesday. “For us, not having played a lot of games so far this year, I think we’re just trying to find our game a bit and get some momentum. Tomorrow’s a good opportunity for us to bounce back from a tough loss.”

Playing back-to-back games didn’t seem to bother the Knights last year. They were 6-3-1 when the second game was on the road last season, though their early results have already shown that past success means little.

“(Pittsburgh’s) a good team, but I think at the same time, when we’re playing our game and our style we can compete with anyone,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “I think that’s the most important thing.”

How these first two consecutive games affect the Knights skaters remains to be seen, but it’ll likely force a change in net. Coach Gerard Gallant has not named his starting goaltender, but backup Malcolm Subban is expected to make his season debut Thursday after Marc-Andre Fleury started Wednesday.

Fleury only appeared in both games of a back-to-back once last season — the team’s first two games.

If Subban does play, the Penguins game will be an important test for him and a team that’s struggled to a 1-3 start.

“You want to get the wins early,” center Cody Eakin said. “You don’t want to be chasing by the All-Star break or trade deadline. We’ll get back to it tomorrow.”

More Golden Knights: Follow all of our Golden Knights coverage online at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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