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3 takeaways from Knights’ loss: Rally proves futile against Bruins

Updated February 29, 2024 - 9:10 pm

The Golden Knights tempted fate once in the third period by putting the Bruins’ lethal power play unit on the ice, and not only held them in check but scored a short-handed goal to tie the game.

They weren’t as fortunate the second time.

Mason Lohrei scored on the man advantage with 4:37 remaining to lift Boston to a 5-4 home win over the Knights on Thursday at TD Garden.

Lohrei’s heroics with Sheldon Rempal in the penalty box for a tripping call wiped out a wild rally by the Knights (33-20-7) that saw them eliminate a three-goal deficit to tie the game on Chandler Stephenson’s short-handed tally 5:01 into the final frame.

“It hurts to come back in that game and lose there in the end,” forward Nicolas Roy said.

The Knights trailed 3-0 after the Bruins (35-12-14) dominated the first period. Morgan Geekie scored twice and Jesper Boqvist once in a span of 2:20 late in the period.

The Knights, however, showed signs of life after the intermission. They were aggressive right from the start and were rewarded when Paul Cotter and Alex Pietrangelo scored in the first 6:57 to climb back in the game.

Geekie completed his first-ever hat trick to put the Bruins back up two, but Michael Amadio made it 4-3 before the end of the second and set up Stephenson’s short-lived heroics.

“We didn’t win very many races or battles for pucks in the first period, so we changed our forecheck a little,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Decided to get a little more aggressive all over the ice to see if we could get back in the game. Our guys have a lot of pride, and it showed. We got better, and it got us back in the game.”

Still, there was no solace in a comeback that fell short.

“I’m not into moral victories, to be honest with you,” Cassidy said. “I think our team is way too far along for that stuff.”

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

1. Power play scuffling

The Knights were unable to convert on either of their power plays, continuing a troubling trend.

They are now 4-for-32 over the last 12 games, a conversion rate of just 12.5 percent.

While the Knights have been able to mitigate a bit of that, allowing just four power-play goals over their past 15 games, they need to find ways to score with Jack Eichel and Mark Stone out of the lineup.

Taking advantage of the man advantage would be a good place to start.

2. Flashy return

Cassidy said Thursday morning that this return to TD Garden felt quite a bit different than his trip to Boston last season.

“Last year there was the unknown,” Cassidy said. “I didn’t know what would happen coming back in here after getting let go. You don’t know if you’re going to get a nice hand or get booed out of the building. Anyway, we got that over with.”

Cassidy, who was fired after six playoff appearances in six seasons with the Bruins, made his second trip to Boston as the Knights’ coach Thursday. This time, he came back with a new piece of jewelry courtesy of the Knights’ Stanley Cup championship.

“It’s nice to come back with a big, nice, shiny ring on your finger,” Cassidy said. “Always a good visit with that.”

Cassidy guided the Bruins to a Game 7 loss in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final and admitted regret in not finishing the job with Boston.

“I wanted to win one here more than anyone,” Cassidy said before the game. “Trust me. That’s the ultimate goal. Every coach wants to win. It’s just a nice feeling to get it accomplished. It didn’t happen here, but it happened there and I’m very proud of that.”

3. Eichel update

Cassidy has said Eichel, the team’s star center, wouldn’t be on the road trip if the organization didn’t feel it was possible he could play at some point before the Knights return home next week.

There are two more chances to get that done after Eichel did not suit up Thursday. The trip continues Saturday in Buffalo, where Eichel remains a polarizing figure, and wraps up Monday in Columbus.

Eichel skated with the Knights on Tuesday and Wednesday in a red no-contact jersey and was in a normal sweater Thursday morning, though the team didn’t have any contact drills planned for the skate.

Eichel hasn’t played since Jan. 11 because of a lower-body injury that required surgery.

“I guess it would be (considered another step toward a return),” Cassidy said. “At some point, he’ll have to absorb some of that contact and take it. Once that happens, I assume he’ll be closer. I don’t know if we’ll practice (Friday), but if we do and he’s able to get through that, it will be a good sign for us.”

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

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