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3 takeaways from Knights’ loss: Standings tighten after setback

Updated December 27, 2022 - 10:09 pm

The puck was feet away from Mark Stone when he slipped at center ice.

All the Golden Knights captain needed to do was touch it to get a whistle. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo had hit the puck with a high stick in the neutral zone, so the play would have been blown dead if the Knights got possession.

Stone’s fall prevented that from happening. Kings center Phillip Danault got to the puck first instead, starting a transition opportunity for Los Angeles.

Left wing Alex Iafallo finished the break off with a goal to put the Kings ahead 3-2 with 11:24 left in the third period Tuesday at Crypto.com Arena. That moment was the difference in a back-and-forth Pacific Division clash.

The Knights’ four-game road winning streak was snapped with a 4-2 loss to Los Angeles. Their lead on the second-place Kings closed to three points, though Los Angeles has an extra game played.

“Third period, we had a couple of really good looks,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “The opportunity was there to win. A guy blew a wheel and we gave up a 3-on-2 and they were able to capitalize, and we weren’t. That’s the story of the third period.”

The Knights’ start wasn’t sharp after taking three days off for the NHL’s annual holiday break. The short-handed team — still missing injured forwards Jack Eichel, Jonathan Marchessault, Brett Howden and Paul Cotter, and defensemen Shea Theodore and Zach Whitecloud — flew to Los Angeles the day of the game.

Right wing Gabriel Vilardi gave the Kings (20-12-6) a 1-0 lead with 8:03 left in the first period. Defenseman Daniil Miromanov turned the puck over behind the Knights’ net, and center Blake Lizotte took advantage by setting up his teammate.

”I think they got to their game a little quicker than we did,” defenseman Brayden Pachal said.

Left wing Michael Amadio responded with a power-play goal 1:11 later. Pietrangelo set up Amadio for a one-timer in the left circle that flew past goaltender Pheonix Copley.

The Knights (24-12-1) then went up 2-1 thanks to defenseman Brayden McNabb’s first goal of the season with 9:53 left in the second period. Left wing Reilly Smith had the puck to the right of the crease during an extended offensive-zone shift. He slipped the puck between his legs on his backhand to McNabb in the slot for one of the Knights’ best assists of the year.

Danault tied things up again in 3:15. He elevated the puck over goaltender Logan Thompson’s left pad for his eighth goal in 10 games against the Knights.

Danault then got the secondary assist on Iafallo’s game-winner. Right wing Viktor Arvidsson sealed the Kings’ fifth win in six games with an empty-net goal with 27 seconds remaining.

The Knights, owners of the NHL’s best road record entering Tuesday, lost for only the third time away from home in regulation.

They’ll need to move on fast. The Knights stay on the road to play Anaheim at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

”Hopefully the guys don’t let this one bother them very long because we were right there,” Cassidy said. “Let’s get ready for Anaheim and have the same energy that we had from the middle of the first period on.”

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

1. Injury list stays long

The Knights didn’t get any injured players back after the break. They also lost another skater against the Kings.

Defenseman Alec Martinez didn’t play the final two periods Tuesday with a lower-body injury. He blocked a shot with 2:29 left in the first period and only played one shift the rest of the game. Cassidy didn’t have an update on Martinez after the game.

The Knights’ top remaining defensemen took on a heavy workload down a man. Pietrangelo played a game-high 27:36, and he and McNabb didn’t leave the ice on a second-period penalty kill.

2. Special teams step up

The break didn’t cool off either of the Knights’ special-teams units.

Amadio’s power-play goal was the team’s 14th in 13 December games. The Knights are 14-for-34 on the man advantage this month (41.2 percent). Only Edmonton has been better (41.3 percent).

The Knights also didn’t allow a goal on the Kings’ two power plays Tuesday. Their penalty kill is 14-for-16 their last eight games (87.5 percent).

3. Amadio keeps rolling

Amadio, gifted extra opportunities and ice time in the wake of the Knights’ injuries, continues to take full advantage.

His power-play goal extended his goal streak to a career-best three games. Amadio, since moving to the top line with center Chandler Stephenson and captain Mark Stone, has three goals and three assists in four games.

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

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