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Golden Knights lose 3rd straight as division race tightens

Updated February 19, 2022 - 7:06 am

If the Golden Knights thought making the playoffs was a given, they’re finding out that’s not the case.

Los Angeles’ Adrian Kempe scored 2:18 into overtime Friday night, and the Knights are starting to feel the squeeze in the Pacific Division after a 4-3 loss to the Kings in front of an announced crowd of 18,238 at T-Mobile Arena.

“We found a way to scrape a point out, but it wasn’t our finest effort,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “We’ve got to get used to the fact that we’re in the middle of a race here for positioning to the finish line and everybody we’re playing has that hunger that you have to bring if you’re going to win games this time of year.”

Max Pacioretty finished with two goals and Reilly Smith also scored for the Knights, who lost their third straight game (0-2-1).

Jack Eichel, who debuted Wednesday after artificial disk replacement surgery on his neck in November, picked up an assist on Pacioretty’s second goal for his first point with the Knights.

But after spending a good portion of the season in first place, the Knights hit the 50-game mark second in the division behind Calgary with company in the playoff chase.

Edmonton sits three points back with two games in hand, and Los Angeles also has 57 points having played one fewer game than the Knights. Five points separate second from fifth place in the Pacific, with sixth-place Vancouver lurking not far behind.

And the Knights must try to hold off the competition over the final 32 games without captain Mark Stone and goaltender Robin Lehner for an undetermined amount of time.

“The more points we drop, the easier that desperation is going to come,” DeBoer said.

The Knights led 2-0 in the first period before allowing a breakaway goal to Andreas Athanasiou. But an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Chandler Stephenson gave the Kings a power play at the start of the second period that Kempe scored on to tie the game 2-2.

The Kings’ Philipp Danault tied the score 3-3 on a breakaway late in the second period to set a career high with his 14th goal.

Knights goalie Laurent Brossoit appeared in his 100th career game and made 27 saves. The Knights fell to 14-11-3 at home.

“You’re handing them opportunities to get back in the game in those situations,” DeBoer said. “I think that’s the key takeaway here. When I look back: Colorado for sure. These guys. And I’m sure in San Jose (on Sunday), you’re getting everybody’s best game and we can’t be casual about the situation.”

Here’s three takeaways from the game:

1. Pacioretty ends scoring slide

Pacioretty hadn’t scored since his two-goal game Dec. 14 at Boston and showed up at the morning skate with white tape on his stick, presumably in an effort to change his luck.

His goal in the first period ended a 147:57 scoreless streak for the Knights and snapped his 11-game goal drought.

It also was the Knights’ second power-play goal in their past 21 opportunities.

Pacioretty registered his fifth multigoal game this season at 6:33 of the second period when his shot clanked the post, went off the back of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and trickled over the line for a 3-2 lead.

“It’s been a long time obviously with my injury,” said Pacioretty, who returned Jan. 27 from wrist surgery after missing 10 games. “Rehabbing and coming back, I didn’t feel too confident in my game since I came back and jumped in right away. It’s coming.

“It’s kind of a line of guys that are trying to find their game after some absence. Did a better job of it tonight. Had some opportunities, but still have a ways to go.”

2. Old is new

The Knights went back to some familiar line combinations to break out of their scoring slump.

The Misfit Line of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and Smith was back together after being broken up for Wednesday’s game against Colorado.

Smith finished off an odd-man rush with Marchessault after barely staying onside to put the Knights ahead 2-0 with 4:54 left in the first period. It was Smith’s third goal in five games after he went all of January without scoring.

Pacioretty was back skating with Stephenson, who made a successful move to right wing on the first line. And the third line featured Nicolas Roy centering Mattias Janmark and Evgenii Dadonov.

3. Third-period dud

Entering the final 20 minutes tied with a team chasing them in the standings, the Knights should have come out with urgency.

Instead, they managed five shots on goal in the third period and had to rely on Brossoit to ensure them of one point.

“It’s frustrating,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “We just have to do a better job of winning the battles and be harder on the puck.”

The Knights’ inability to finish has been a recurring issue. In the past 11 games, they have a minus-9 goal differential in the third period (14-5) and have gone 5-4-2 during that stretch.

“It just seemed like for our group there was no flow in the third period, and we have to do a better job playing against a desperate team like that to make sure that we outcompete them and find a way to play with confidence with the puck,” Pacioretty said. “It just seemed like a little bit of a sloppy period from our group, and there’s no excuse for that.”

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

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