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Golden Knights fail to generate goals, momentum on power play

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s bad enough that the Golden Knights’ power play isn’t clicking the way the team hoped through five games.

But coach Pete DeBoer sounded as if he was talking about an ex-wife when he insinuated the struggles on the power play Friday sucked the life out of the Knights in their first loss of the season.

Those units were the focus of practice Saturday before the Knights wrap up their four-game series against the Arizona Coyotes with a Sunday matinee at Gila River Arena.

“We’re five games in with some new concepts, some new units,” DeBoer cautioned. “We’re just not connected as a group out there yet. But I believe it’s coming.”

The Knights went 1-for-4 with the man advantage in Friday’s 5-2 setback and are 2-for-18 overall, though they’ve scored a power-play goal in two straight games, to be fair.

Part of the reason for their slow start goes to Arizona — DeBoer slipped and called them Phoenix during his news conference — which is ranked third in the NHL on the penalty kill since Rick Tocchet took over as coach in 2017.

But, as DeBoer noted, the Knights aren’t generating enough momentum with their power plays regardless of whether they score, and Arizona has in turn fed off its penalty kill.

The Knights had three shots on goal during their four power plays Friday, the same number they generated short-handed.

“We have to have that mindset we’re going to outwork the penalty kill,” DeBoer said. “It’s not where we want it to be yet, but I think five games in, if you look around the league, I think every team has areas of the game and probably multiple areas of the game where it isn’t where you want it to be yet with a short training camp and no exhibition games.

“I’m very confident in the personnel and in the plan. I know we’re going to get it together.”

The Knights spent time before practice Saturday drilling power-play zone entries with assistant coach Steve Spott, who is running the units after assistant Ryan Craig was in charge the past three seasons. They also spent a significant portion of time working on the power play once the full practice began.

One change evident was defensemen Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo swapped spots, with the former now running the No. 1 unit that includes Cody Glass, William Karlsson, Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone.

That group was on the ice together in the third period when Glass deflected in Stone’s pass to cut the Coyotes’ lead to 4-2 with about nine minutes remaining.

Pietrangelo, who was signed to a seven-year, $61.6 million contract in part to upgrade the special teams, has one secondary assist on the power play. His 8.7 shots per 60 minutes on the power play, according to HockeyReference.com, is the second-lowest of his career.

“A power play, or special teams specifically, you get that comfort, you get that kind of smoothness of play, knowing where guys are at, you get that through reps and experience and just playing the game,” defenseman Alec Martinez said. “Without the preseason, that wasn’t really an option, so I think that’s kind of why you see, I wouldn’t necessarily call it struggling, but just, you know, timing’s a little bit off, things like that.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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