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3 takeaways from Knights’ loss: All-Star break begins on sour note

Updated January 28, 2023 - 8:21 pm

Reilly Smith looked like he wanted to smash his stick in half against the ice.

His frustration likely spoke for the rest of the Golden Knights’ bench after Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Islanders. The team was so close to the positive result it wanted heading into the All-Star break.

The Knights dominated the puck in overtime at UBS Arena. They had the first four shots. Left wing William Carrier drew a penalty shot. None of them got past goaltender Semyon Varlamov.

When the Islanders finally got a chance of their own, with 32 seconds remaining, center Mathew Barzal ripped the puck to the top of the net for the game-winner.

The Knights were once again left to rue their missed opportunities as they fell to 1-5-2 in their last eight games. They finished their four-game road trip 0-2-2, and will have to stew over their skid for the next nine days.

“It’s tough,” Carrier said. “Especially at the beginning of the year, we got on the road there, we were winning every (game). I don’t think we were playing as well as we are now and we were winning. Now, we’re playing solid hockey and just can’t find the back of the net.”

The Knights’ run of form continues to be repetitive.

Fall behind. Fight back. Fail to bury some great looks. Come up short. The same story played out once more against the Islanders.

The Knights (29-18-4) had a 45-37 edge in shots but were held to two goals or fewer for the fifth time in six games. They finished their January schedule ranked 28th in the NHL in goals per game this month (2.42).

Left wing Anders Lee gave the Islanders (25-22-5) the lead 3:52 into the second period after right wing Kyle Palmieri drove to the net. That put the Knights behind 1-0 for the ninth time in their last 10 games.

Carrier tied the game with 3:52 left in the second after a great pass from center Chandler Stephenson. Varlamov didn’t blink again.

The veteran goaltender improved to 2-0 against the Knights this season thanks to some spectacular saves. He denied Smith using his stick in the second period. He stopped defenseman Ben Hutton from the slot in the third. He saved Carrier’s five-hole attempt on the penalty shot to keep the Islanders’ hopes alive.

“Tons of chances,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “We just can’t seem to buy one right now.”

Varlamov bought enough time for Barzal to make a play against Thompson, who lost in overtime for the second time this road trip.

Thompson will at least get a chance to clear his head when he participates in NHL All-Star Weekend next Friday and Saturday in Sunrise, Florida. The rest of the Knights will have to find a way to do the same after their first four-game losing streak of the season.

“The break will do us some good to get some rest, get away for sure,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “And if we can bottle these type of efforts like tonight and bring it forward, I think our game will be in good shape. We just have to find more ways to score goals.”

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

1. Carrier shines

Carrier was so impressive against the Islanders that Cassidy not only played him in overtime, he started him.

The penalty shot showed it was the right choice.

Carrier was easily the Knights’ best skater in his second game back from an upper-body injury. In addition to his goal and the penalty shot, he drew two penalties for his team.

Carrier still lamented his missed chance in overtime after the game. He said he didn’t expect Varlamov to come out and challenge his shot so much.

“He read me pretty well,” Carrier said.

2. Varlamov’s victory

Varlamov’s win was his first since defeating the Knights at T-Mobile Arena on Dec. 17.

He left that game in the third period and didn’t return for nearly three weeks with a lower-body injury.

Varlamov improved to 5-3 against the Knights. He has a .941 save percentage in those eight meetings.

3. Droughts continue

Some of the Knights’ top forwards will head into the break ice cold.

Smith hasn’t scored a goal in his last 12 games. Stephenson’s drought is at 10, right wing Jonathan Marchessault’s is at nine, and center Jack Eichel’s is at eight.

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

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