The Golden Knights played their first home game in exactly four weeks Saturday, giving the home fans a chance to see the changes implemented by new coach Peter DeBoer.
They probably could have done without all the late drama, however.
The Knights gave up four goals in the third period, salvaged a point when Cody Eakin scored with 3:53 remaining in regulation, then lost 6-5 in a shootout to Carolina at T-Mobile Arena.
“It’s on us to stop the bleeding. We didn’t do that tonight, and they just kept coming and coming,” forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “They were opportunistic. You got to give credit also to (Eakin). He made a really nice goal to tie it up there.”
Chandler Stephenson scored a short-handed goal 2:17 into the third period to give the Knights a 4-2 advantage, but they couldn’t hold the lead.
Erik Haula scored on a breakaway in his first game back at T-Mobile after being traded in the offseason to cut the Knights’ lead to 4-3, and Haydn Fleury tied the score at 4 midway through the third.
Martin Necas converted on a power play with 6:02 remaining to give the Hurricanes their first lead at 5-4 before Eakin answered about two minutes later when he capitalized on a misplay by Carolina goaltender James Reimer and tucked in a wraparound.
Andrei Svechnikov and Justin Williams converted in the shootout for the Hurricanes.
Max Pacioretty and Jon Merrill scored 1:09 apart to help the Knights take a 2-1 lead after the first period.
Shea Theodore put the Knights ahead 3-1 less than a minute into the second period when he finished off a 2-on-1 for the Knights, who have points in four of their past five games and are one point behind first-place Vancouver.
“Over a long season, you’ll have games like this,” DeBoer said. “On the road trip, we didn’t have trouble like this. We didn’t look like this with a lead in the third. I’m going to chalk it up as one of those nights. We’ll learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Here’s what else stood out from the loss:
1. Crazy finish
For the second time in nine days, the teams staged a wild third period.
The Knights blew a pair of two-goal leads, and the teams combined for six goals on 24 shots on goal. According to NHL public relations, only two games have featured more third-period goals: Vancouver-Pittsburgh with eight Nov. 27 and Minnesota-Arizona with seven Dec. 19.
Stephenson’s short-handed goal was his second with the Knights after having one in his career before this season. Fleury’s tying goal for Carolina was reversed by video review after initially being ruled out, and Eakin’s tally was his first since Nov. 23.
“They pushed, and we turned some pucks over and took some penalties,” DeBoer said. “Some uncharacteristic things. We’ve been playing some real solid hockey, and I thought in the second and third we were our own worst enemy.”
2. Heat check
While rumors continue to swirl about the Knights’ interest in a defenseman (Los Angeles’ Alec Martinez, in particular), Shea Theodore continues to blossom into a premium puck mover in his third full NHL season.
Theodore notched his third multipoint game since Jan. 18 and second straight after collecting two points Thursday at Florida. He has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in his past seven games.
With 37 points in 57 games, Theodore tied his career high in points set last season, and the 24-year-old ranks 13th in the NHL among defensemen in scoring.
3. Heisman pose
William Carrier doesn’t have a deep bag of tricks with the puck on his stick, preferring to lower his shoulder and drive to the net. But that power move proved to be a load for Carolina’s defensemen in the first period.
In 4:34 of ice time, Carrier registered three shots on goal, two hits and showed off his strength to set up Jon Merrill’s goal.
Carrier shrugged off the Hurricane’ Fleury while streaking down the right wing, circled the net and then stiff-armed Fleury to the ice before he slipped a pass to Merrill, who pinched in from the point.
Merrill flipped a backhand past Carolina goaltender James Reimer for his second of the season and first goal while playing his natural position on defense.