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3 takeaways from Knights’ loss: Pressure, penalties cause problems

Updated December 1, 2022 - 7:50 pm

Nic Hague looked to his left. He turned to his right.

The Golden Knights defenseman couldn’t find an outlet to pass to under pressure in his defensive zone. When he attempted to move the puck, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was there to pick it off.

The Penguins scored two quick passes later. They were all over the Knights on Thursday in Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena. Their forecheck was relentless.

The pressure resulted in 12 takeaways, 41 hits and 47 shots on goal for the Penguins, tied for the second-most the Knights have ever allowed. That was enough for Pittsburgh to win 4-3 and improve to 6-1-1 in its past eight games.

“They were faster than us at the start of the game, and that continued all the way through,” left wing Reilly Smith said. “They were first to loose pucks. They made our breakouts pretty tough.”

The Knights (17-7-1) did start well.

First-period goals from center Jack Eichel and Smith put the Knights ahead 2-0. But Pittsburgh’s energy was always there. The Penguins (12-8-4) had 18 shots on goal in the first.

Those chances started resulting in goals in the second. Left wing Brock McGinn and right wing Rickard Rakell scored to tie the game at 2. Defenseman Shea Theodore put the Knights back in front 3-2 with a power-play goal 1:26 into the third, but the lead didn’t last.

Left wing Jake Guentzel put things level again with a power-play goal 6:07 later. Right wing Kasperi Kapanen scored the game-winner 9:25 into the third after McGinn was first to a loose puck in the offensive zone.

The Knights didn’t find ways to stem the tide. They struggled to break the puck out, exit their zone and create offense. They finished with five high-danger scoring chances at five-on-five, according to the website Natural Stat Trick, tied for their third-lowest total of the season.

The Knights dropped to 1-4 all-time at PPG Paints Arena, their second-worst record in an active NHL building behind Winnipeg’s Canada Life Centre (1-5). They lost for only the second time in regulation on the road in 13 games.

“They were harder on pucks than us,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “They played behind us all night. We didn’t handle their pressure below the goal line, specifically, very well.”

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

1. Special teams show up

The Knights still had a chance despite their poor five-on-five play because of their special teams.

Their power play scored two goals in a game for the third time this season. Their penalty kill was successful its first three opportunities before Guentzel scored on a 4-on-3.

The goal snapped an 0-for-17 drought for Pittsburgh’s power play over its past seven games.

“I thought all in all, the five-on-four penalty kill for us was pretty good,” Cassidy said.

2. Penalty problems

The Knights, the NHL’s least-penalized team, took a lot more trips to the box than they’re used to Thursday.

They were called for six minor penalties, tied for their highest total of the season with their 3-2 loss in Calgary on Oct. 18. Three of those went to left wing William Carrier. One interference penalty went to goaltender Logan Thompson, setting up Guentzel’s goal.

“Obviously, you can’t take penalties,” Theodore said. “They have a good power-play unit over there, and they made us pay.”

3. Thompson holds firm

Thompson, penalty aside, played well to give his team a chance to win.

The NHL’s November rookie of the month made a career-high 43 saves in his first start against Pittsburgh. Thompson suffered only his second loss in the past six games.

Counterpart Tristan Jarry made 34 saves to improve to 4-1 against the Knights.

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

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