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3 takeaways from Knights’ loss: Poor start ends winning streak

Updated March 7, 2023 - 8:09 pm

The pass bounced inches from Jack Eichel’s stick, barely escaping his grasp in front of the Florida Panthers’ near-empty net.

Golden Knights right wing Jonathan Marchessault sent a great feed to his red-hot center late in the third period at FLA Live Arena. It caught goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky out of position. But like so many of the Knights’ scoring chances Tuesday, it didn’t result in a goal.

The Panthers survived the close call to earn a crucial 2-1 win in their fight for the NHL playoffs. Florida took a 2-0 lead in the second period and held on to move two points back of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Knights were left to ruminate on the poor start and missed chances that led to the end of their three-game winning streak. They lost in regulation for only the second time in 13 games since the All-Star break to start a five-game road trip, tied for their longest of the season.

“We just weren’t ready to start the game,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “That’s kind of where it came down to bite us.”

It was clear what coach Bruce Cassidy thought of the Knights’ start by the beginning of the second period.

He switched up three of his forward lines, only leaving the top group of Eichel, Marchessault and left wing Ivan Barbashev intact. The defense pairs were juggled at times, too.

The changes came after a first period in which the Knights (38-20-6) allowed far too many chances from the slot. Ryan Lomberg converted one 4:25 into the first to put Florida (32-27-6) up 1-0.

Things didn’t change immediately to start the second. Center Aleksander Barkov gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead from right in front of the crease 4:05 after the first intermission.

“We probably gave up more slot shots than any other game this year,” left wing Reilly Smith said. “We have to do better collapsing in front and making sure they’re not getting those looks, especially as often as they were.”

The deficit seemed to spark the Knights.

Theodore got them within 2-1 with a one-timer on the power play with 6:37 remaining in the second period. The Knights then had chances to tie the game. Theodore and Barbashev generated a two-on-one. Right wing Michael Amadio had a great look from in tight on the power play. Eichel got his late opportunity.

But the Knights didn’t bury any of them.

They fell to 1-3-1 in their history at FLA Live Arena. The Panthers picked up their third win in four games.

”We didn’t put any pressure on them in the first period,” Cassidy said. “We chased the game the whole night and never caught up to it.”

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

1. Hill stands tall

Goaltender Adin Hill made 33 saves, his fifth-highest total of the season.

The 26-year-old continued his strong play since the All-Star break. He is 6-2 in that span with a .929 save percentage.

He has stepped up with goaltenders Logan Thompson and Laurent Brossoit on injured reserve, and goaltender Jonathan Quick coming to the Knights via trade.

“He was amazing tonight,” Theodore said. “I don’t know how many point-blank saves he made.”

2. Power-play tally

Theodore’s goal was the Knights’ first on the power play in six games.

The team is 3-for-43 on the man advantage since the last time it played the Panthers on Jan. 12, when captain Mark Stone suffered a back injury that required surgery.

The Knights at least drew four power-play opportunities Tuesday, tied for their fifth-most in a game.

“We kind of let them off the hook,” Smith said. “We could’ve created a couple more opportunities. We just have to be sharper out there.”

3. Theodore’s streak

Theodore scored in back-to-back games for the first time this season and the seventh time in his career.

The 27-year-old has been on an impressive run since the All-Star break. His 13 points in 13 games in that span is tied for the sixth-most among NHL defensemen.

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

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