EDMONTON, Alberta — Normally, a loss such as Thursday’s would not sit well with Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant.
But given the circumstances, Gallant can live with the 4-3 defeat to the Edmonton Oilers.
Earlier in the evening, Nashville clinched the top spot in the Western Conference, which means the Knights (51-23-7, 109 points) will play the top wild-card team in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. That opponent has yet to be determined, but they are locked into the No. 2 spot.
The Predators, who have 115 points, also won the Presidents’ Trophy for most points in the NHL.
“It was sort of a meaningless game,” Gallant said after Edmonton’s Michael Cammalleri broke a 2-2 tie midway through the third period and goaltender Cam Talbot stopped Knights forward Brandon Pirri twice in the final seconds to preserve the victory in front of anannounced crowd of 18,347 at Rogers Place.
“I thought we competed and battled hard. Now, it’s move on and get ready for the next one and then get ready for the big ones next week.”
The Knights wrap up their first regular season Saturday at Calgary. Then it’s the postseason with Games 1 and 2 at T-Mobile Arena next week. The NHL will announce dates and times for the playoffs Sunday.
Pirri is going to be playing hockey somewhere. But he’s trying to do his part to stay with the Knights after being recalled Monday on an emergency basis from the Chicago Wolves, the team’s American Hockey League affiliate. The Wolves also are in first place in their division and are headed for the AHL playoffs.
Pirri scored 4:47 into the second period to give the Knights a 2-1 lead after Brayden McNabb had erased a 1-0 first-period deficit with his fifth goal two minutes into the period. For Pirri, 26, who has played parts of eight NHL seasons with five different teams, it’s about making a positive impression.
“I just want to be solid, make plays in the O-zone and take advantage of my opportunities,” said Pirri, who has scored three goals in his two games with the Knights. “It’s easy to play with these guys. They look to get the puck to the forwards and go north quickly. It fits my game really well.”
Down a goal with 1:48 left, the Knights had a power play and pulled goaltender Malcolm Subban for a sixth attacker but couldn’t get the equalizer. Talbot closed the door to give the Oilers the season series, 2-1-1. The Oilers scored three times in the final period.
McNabb said there’s still some things for the Knights to clean up in their own end. The Knights are still struggling at times to clear the puck. Turnovers and not picking up players roaming in the high-scoring areas also could be postseason issues.
“You can’t turn it over,” he said. “Those mistakes are killer. They cost us (Thursday).”
Subban played well, stopping 29 of 33 shots. It was the second consecutive game starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had off.
In addition to Fleury, defensemen Nate Schmidt and Brad Hunt and center Cody Eakin also had the night off. And as he shuffled his lines, Gallant said he can’t fault the team’s energy.
“We’ve clinched our division, and sometimes it’s hard to get up,” he said. “But I thought for the most part our guys did a great job. They played three solid periods in Vancouver the other night. (Thursday), we didn’t come out as sharp, but they skated hard and worked hard. Overall, we lost the game, but I like the way we competed.”