If anybody on the Golden Knights deserves a pass for a mistake these days, it’s Reilly Smith.
The right wing continued his torrid play Saturday, but he also committed a costly turnover in overtime that helped the Detroit Red Wings snag a 3-2 win over the Knights before an announced crowd of 18,437 at T-Mobile Arena.
“We’ve been pretty good the past 10 or 11 (games), so sometimes that happens,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “We can be better, but you’ve got to give (Detroit) some credit.”
The Knights saw their four-game win streak come to an end and lost for the first time at home since Feb. 22.
Despite the loss, they moved within five points of idle San Jose for second place in the Pacific Division but will have to wait to clinch a berth in the postseason.
The Knights could have sealed their spot in the playoffs with a victory and a regulation loss by Arizona at the New York Islanders on Sunday. Instead, the point against the Red Wings lowers their magic number to three points.
“I thought they were first to pucks. They outworked us, especially early on,” Knights defenseman Jon Merrill said. “They were flying around, and we didn’t do a good job of eliminating their time and space in our zone.”
Cody Eakin set a career high with his 20th goal and Smith notched a short-handed goal midway through the third period in his 500th career NHL game.
But early in the overtime, Smith tried a behind-the-back pass that was intercepted by Dylan Larkin. Larkin fed Anthony Mantha in the slot for his second goal of the game 19 seconds into the extra session.
“Tough play, obviously,” goaltender Malcolm Subban said. “They have guys that get up ice, and they’re good at what they do in Larkin and Mantha. They’re fast, and they get on you and they make some good plays.”
Subban, coming off his first career NHL shutout, made his fourth straight start and finished with 27 saves. He dropped to 13-1-1 in his career at T-Mobile Arena.
Smith put the Knights ahead 2-1 at 10:12 of the third period with Ryan Carpenter in the penalty box for hooking. Smith deflected a pass into the neutral zone and won the race for the puck before he beat Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard with a backhand.
It was Smith’s third straight game with a goal and his ninth point in his past four games.
But the Red Wings tied the score about a minute later on the power play when Mantha blew a one-timer past Subban with 8:43 remaining.
“They skated well. They collapsed in their zone,” Eakin said. “They allowed their goalie to see shots or they blocked them. They just kept playing behind our D and made it tough on them the whole game.”
The Knights struggled to find their legs after Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men fame performed the national anthem and went almost seven minutes before they registered their first shot on goal.
Detroit took advantage of the poor start to grab the lead 3:06 into the first period.
Rookie Taro Hirose, playing his third game, intercepted a breakout pass and fired a shot that was kicked out by Subban. Andreas Athanasiou got to the rebound at the side of the net and sent a shot through the crease, but Luke Glendening was positioned at the back post and tapped in his 10th goal.
The fourth line briefly snapped the Knights out of their slumber in the first, but they finally woke up during the later stages of the second period.
Not long after a power play expired, Ryan Reaves deflected Nate Schmidt’s shot and the rebound went to Eakin. He emphatically slammed in his 20th goal to surpass his previous career high set with Dallas during the 2014-15 season.
“I didn’t think we played horrible, but I didn’t think we had the energy or the jump,” Gallant said. “They played a real good, hard game. They probably deserved the two points. I’m glad we got the one, but they played a good hard game.”
1. Graveyard shift. The Golden Knights welcomed back William Carrier after he missed the past 14 games with an upper-body injury, and he teamed with Ryan Reaves to cause havoc for 30-plus minutes. Carrier finished with 11 hits, and Reaves also had an assist on Cody Eakin’s second-period goal to reach 20 points for the first time in his nine-year career.
2. Change on the fly. Coach Gerard Gallant didn’t like what he saw from his forward lines and switched personnel in the second period. Carrier skated with Paul Stastny and Mark Stone, while Alex Tuch joined Reaves and Ryan Carpenter. Tomas Nosek, who started at center, went to wing alongside Eakin and Valentin Zykov.
3. Streak over. The Knights’ first line has been scorching hot but couldn’t get much going against the Red Wings. Jonathan Marchessault had four giveaways and saw his three-game point streak come to an end. Williaam Karlsson managed one shot on goal, and his three-game point streak also was halted.