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3 takeaways from Knights’ loss: Point streak ends with Ducks’ rally

Updated November 5, 2023 - 9:17 pm

Mason McTavish was mobbed by his teammates in the corner of the Honda Center ice Sunday, his stick still lying in the crease.

The Anaheim Ducks’ 20-year-old center was celebrating what felt like a transformative moment for a young squad finding its footing. McTavish stood tall in the blue paint to score a go-ahead goal with 3:40 left in the third period of the Ducks’ 4-2 win against the Golden Knights, giving his team its sixth straight win.

The continuation of one winning streak marked the end of another. The Knights lost for the first time in regulation. Their 12-game point streak to start the season, tied for the seventh-longest in NHL history, is over.

The defending Stanley Cup champions entered the third period with a 2-0 lead but couldn’t close it out.

Fatigue appeared to set in as the Knights — playing for the second straight night and the third time in four days after a dominant 7-0 win over Colorado on Saturday — didn’t make the plays they so often seemed to do during this stretch to pull out a win.

“Well, I give our players a lot of credit,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It’s their fourth (game) in six days. They’ve played their asses off. We give up three chances, and they all ended up in the net. That’s going to happen some nights.”

The Knights had issues with a dangerous Ducks team at times, but were in the driver’s seat heading into the final frame thanks to goals from left wing Ivan Barbashev and center Jack Eichel.

The team just couldn’t get a puck to bounce its way in the third. The Knights, who gave up four goals only once their first 12 games, allowed that many in 20 minutes. And it took Anaheim only five shots.

The Ducks cut their deficit in half 1:38 into the period on a power-play goal by center Adam Henrique. Center Brett Howden blocked a shot one second before the goal, but the puck bounced right back to Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler.

“A few seconds left of that power play, and they get momentum,” said center William Karlsson, who didn’t record a point for the first time in nine games. “And away they went.”

The Ducks tied the game 9:17 later off an Eichel turnover. He flubbed a pass in his own zone, giving rookie defenseman Pavel Mintyukov a chance to find center Sam Carrick alone in front for the equalizer.

The Knights never wrested control of the game back. They had their opportunities. Eichel had a short-handed breakaway 47 seconds into the third that goaltender John Gibson turned aside. The Knights had four power plays, including two in the final frame, yet didn’t get a goal.

That set the stage for McTavish to make the winning play. The third overall pick in 2021 posted up by the blue paint and buried a feed from left wing Frank Vatrano even with defenseman Shea Theodore draped over his back.

Carrick added an empty-net goal with 1:09 remaining to end the Knights’ hopes. They became the last NHL team to suffer a regulation loss. Their .885 points percentage still leads the league.

“We’re a veteran group, and we should be able to finish that game,” defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “But, you know, credit to them. They came hard and they got some bounces, and they were able to put a few in the net.”

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

1. Goalie battle

The two goaltenders each saw their fortunes turn in the third.

Henrique’s goal was the first Knights starter Logan Thompson allowed to the Ducks in his career. He had a shutout streak of 153:38 across his first three appearances against Anaheim, and made 68 consecutive saves. Thompson then gave up three goals on the next four shots he faced to take the loss Sunday.

In the other net, Gibson made 29 saves in the win. It was only his fifth victory in 27 starts against the Knights.

2. Another blue-line injury

The Knights played without defenseman Alec Martinez, who missed the game with a lower-body injury.

That left the team without half its regular defense corps. Defensemen Nic Hague (lower-body) and Zach Whitecloud (upper-body) also didn’t play.

Defenseman Kaedan Korczak took Martinez’s spot in the lineup.

3. Barbashev heats up

One encouraging sign for the Knights is Barbashev remains in a groove.

The 27-year-old, who signed a five-year, $25 million extension this summer, has two goals and three points in his last three games. Barbashev scored two goals in the Knights’ first 10 contests.

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

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