The Golden Knights had one of those Valentine’s Day dates that starts off with a great conversation and is followed by a memorable dinner.
Then they let out a garlic burp while going in for a kiss and killed the mood.
Toronto took control of a seesaw game midway through the third period Thursday and handed the Knights a 6-3 loss before an announced gathering of 18,214 at T-Mobile Arena.
“They’re a good team, they’re a fast team, they’re hard to contain,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “I thought we played good and we had a chance to win. But we didn’t give it (away), they took it, I thought.”
The Knights lost their fifth straight at home for the first time in franchise history and have dropped seven of their past nine games overall.
After being called out by Gallant for playing a “soft game” in Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to Arizona, the Knights hurt themselves with six penalties, including three in the first period.
Toronto finished 2-for-6 on the power play.
William Karlsson tied the score 3-3 with his 18th goal at 4:12 of the third period before the Maple Leafs scored three times in the final 9:59 to win for the sixth time in the past seven games.
“I think they controlled the puck-possession battle tonight and probably forced us to make some bad plays,” right wing Reilly Smith said. “I think in the second period we were throwing pucks around too much and we weren’t holding on to it long enough. It just seemed like they had a lot of momentum.”
Auston Matthews finished with two goals and an assist for Toronto and Mitchell Marner had a goal and an assist.
Defenseman Morgan Rielly put the Maple Leafs ahead midway through the third when his shot went through traffic to beat Marc-Andre Fleury.
Matthews added his second goal 55 seconds after Rielly’s goal, and Marner finished off a 2-on-1 with Connor Brown.
“We’ve got to be better in the third,” Gallant said. “That’s when you win hockey games, and we didn’t do it.”
Fleury finished with 37 saves but allowed a season high in goals.
“You look at all the goals and they could be all prevented,” center Paul Stastny said. “That’s the way the game goes sometimes. It’s a game of mistakes. Everyone’s going to have mistakes, you just can’t let it compound. When one mistake happens, you’ve got to get back for each other.”
Smith and Oscar Lindberg scored in the second period to put the Knights on top 2-1 before the Maple Leafs answered with goals by Patrick Marleau and Matthews to regain the lead.
“There are opportunities there to score and try to win games and to put ourselves in a position to win games,” Knights wing Max Pacioretty said, “and when it’s not working, you just have to look in the mirror and try to worry about yourself and worry about elevating your game to help the team come out with some wins.”
The Maple Leafs own the league’s second-best road record at 19-7-2 and lived up to their billing as one of the betting favorites for the Stanley Cup.
Toronto swarmed Fleury in the opening period, and the Knights’ best chances came short-handed, including a Smith breakaway that Andersen easily turned away with eight minutes remaining.
Andreas Johnsson converted shortly after Smith’s chance at 13:14 when he redirected Jake Gardiner’s drive with 10 seconds remaining on the power play.
“It’s a long season. You go through your ups and downs,” Smith said. “I think the biggest thing for us is to stop the bleeding, and I think the best way to do that it just through hard work.”
1. Sweep the leg. Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb delivered a dangerous knee-to-knee hit on Toronto’s Andreas Johnsson at 1:28 of the second period and was penalized. Johnsson, who opened the scoring, had to be helped off the ice and was ruled out for the remainder of the game.
2. Top spot. Jonathan Marchessault picked up an assist on William Karlsson’s third-period goal. He now has 40 points, tying Alex Tuch for the team lead. Tuch was held without a point for the seventh consecutive game.
3. 100/100. Auston Matthews registered his 100th career NHL point when the Maple Leafs played at T-Mobile Arena on on Dec. 31, 2017. His first goal Thursday was the 100th of his career.
David Schoen Review-Journal