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3 takeaways: Knights mowed down by Oilers; playoff spot on hold

Updated April 10, 2024 - 10:07 pm

The Golden Knights are still in control of their own destiny to make the playoffs.

They’re not making it easy on themselves.

The Knights fell behind early to the Edmonton Oilers and lost their third consecutive game, 5-1, on Wednesday at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta.

It was an emphatic dud to cap off the Knights’ final road trip of the season.

The Knights (42-28-8) were outscored 16-8 in these three games. Each regulation loss failed to inch them closer to a sixth playoff berth in seven seasons.

Instead, the Knights’ lead on the second wild-card spot is down to three points over the St. Louis Blues with four home games remaining. The Blues defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Wednesday.

Safe to say morale is low at the moment.

“Right now, for us, our game’s not where we need to be,” right wing Keegan Kolesar said. “Even if we were to get in, it might be a quick bounce for us.”

Kolesar scored, and goaltender Adin Hill allowed all five goals on 26 shots in his return to the lineup. Hill had been out since suffering a lower-body injury March 23 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It was much the same in his return.

Hill has allowed three goals or more in eight of his last nine starts. The one he didn’t was against Columbus, when he gave up two before exiting four minutes into the third period.

He and the Knights swam upstream early.

Oilers defenseman Cody Ceci’s centering attempt from the half wall deflected off Knights defenseman Alec Martinez’s skate and past Hill for a 1-0 lead.

The Knights were held to 20 shots after being held to 24 and 23 their past two games.

The Oilers held them to virtually nothing. The snowball kept rolling as a result.

Defenseman Mattias Ekholm made it 2-0 at 5:38 with a powerful slapshot from the left faceoff dot, and left wing Zach Hyman scored his 53rd goal of the season off a rebound in front.

Coach Bruce Cassidy said the Knights’ play below the goal line and breakouts in the second period were the difference. Both goals were results of that.

The complete opposite can be said about the Oilers.

“They did a great job of breaking out,” Cassidy said. “They were miles ahead of us in that area.”

Cassidy has talked about the importance of executing little details late in the season. The third period didn’t reflect that, either.

The Knights committed two penalties 45 seconds apart in the third period. That led to a five-on-three power-play goal from Oilers star Leon Draisaitl at 6:50.

Kolesar scored a short-handed goal one minute later to put the Knights on the board.

Edmonton made it 5-1 2:56 later when there appeared to be miscommunication between Hill and defenseman Zach Whitecloud as Hill played the puck behind the net. Left wing Dylan Holloway scooped up the loose puck and wrapped it into the net.

“We’re in a stretch of that bad luck in front of our net,” Cassidy said. “We have to do a better job of taking care of business.”

The loss all but eliminates the Knights from any chance at home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

There’s still the matter of actually getting there.

Four home games left bodes well for the Knights’ chances, especially against three teams that are out of the playoff picture.

The Knights would face a Western Conference Final rematch with the Dallas Stars, the top team in the league, in the first round if the season ended today.

Nothing is certain at this point.

“We’re not in the playoffs yet,” right wing Jonathan Marchessault said. “We need to start playing like we want to be.”

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

1. Stephenson out

Center Chandler Stephenson was a late scratch due to personal reasons, the team announced before the game.

His wife, Tasha, is due any moment with their second child.

Brendan Brisson drew back into the lineup at second-line left wing with Tomas Hertl moving to center. Brisson had no shots in 11:52, while Hertl was minus-2 in his second game with the Knights.

2. No McDavid, no problem

The Oilers had no trouble finding offense without their superstar.

Edmonton captain Connor McDavid did not play due to a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day. The reigning Hart Trophy winner as MVP of the league is third in scoring this year with 130 points (31 goals, 99 assists).

Nine Oilers players had a point in the game.

“We’ve got a lot of guys off our roster that aren’t playing, as well,” Cassidy said. “To me, (McDavid not playing) is irrelevant. He’s a great hockey player. We’ve got about four or five out that are pretty good in their own right. The lineup is what it is this time of year. Even if he was playing, I wouldn’t have expected this result, to be perfectly honest with you.”

3. Defensive issues

The Knights thought they found a formula during their 9-2-1 stretch from March 9 to April 2.

They allowed 31 goals over those 12 games, good for an average of 2.58 per contest. The last three games have seen the strong foundation go to waste. Goalie Logan Thompson was a big proponent of that while Hill was out.

Thompson was responsible for 10 goals allowed in Arizona and Vancouver.

The Knights could get defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (illness) back after not traveling on the trip. It might not matter at the moment.

Questions need to be answered with one week to go. It starts with the blue line and the goaltending department.

Contact Danny Webster at dwebster@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DannyWebster21 on X.

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