BOSTON — For all the things the Golden Knights haven’t done well this season, one area in which they’ve excelled is holding leads entering the third period.
Heading into Tuesday’s game against Boston, the Knights were 20-1-1 when leading after two periods, the sixth-best points percentage in the league.
But the Knights were unable to hang on to a lead against the Atlantic Division-leading Bruins and allowed two third-period goals to fall 3-2 at TD Garden in the final game before the All-Star break.
“Disappointing going into the third (period) with the lead and not getting points, but we didn’t help ourselves with the penalties early in the game,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “Despite the fact we killed them off, it takes a toll on you. You get to the third period, it’s tough to find energy at the end of a road trip when you start that way.”
Rookie defenseman Nic Hague scored his first NHL goal midway through the second period to give the Knights a 2-1 advantage. But Jake DeBrusk tied the score 4:26 into the third before David Krejci gathered a rebound and flipped in the winner with 7:42 remaining.
Mark Stone beat Bruins goaltender Jaroslav Halak from a tight angle on the Knights’ first shot 1:24 in before defenseman Jeremy Lauzon answered for Boston at 11:40 of the first period with his first goal this season.
The Knights’ only previous loss in regulation when leading after two periods came Nov. 10 at Detroit, and they also fell to Winnipeg in overtime Nov. 2 after squandering a two-goal lead.
“Frustrating at the end to lose again,” said goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who finished with 34 stops. “We’ve lost a few lately, and that was a good challenge for us. Obviously, they’re a good team.
“I thought Stoney got a big goal to get us going early. We had the lead after two, and they came pretty hard in the third and got a couple goals there and cost us the win.”
Here’s what stood out from the loss:
1. Haguer bomb
Hague came close to scoring several times in the first 37 games, including a golden chance in the third period Saturday at Montreal. But he broke through on the power play at 10:59 of the second period when he overpowered Halak with a one-timer.
“That’s a goal-scorer’s goal,” Stone said.
Hague also made two key defensive plays in the third period, as he broke up a 2-on-1 early and prevented a scoring chance about six minutes into the period when he slid to knock down Chris Wagner’s pass.
After the game, Hague was reassigned to the American Hockey League along with Nicolas Roy to help save salary cap space.
“It’s definitely a dream come true for me,” Hague said of scoring. “It felt like it took forever, but we’re there. I’m definitely happy with that, but really it sucks just the way the game ended.”
2. Perfect on penalty kill
The biggest change thus far under DeBoer has been the penalty kill, and it went 5-for-5 against Boston, which entered with the league’s third-ranked power play at 26.3 percent.
The Knights allowed one shot on goal during two first-period power plays and held the Bruins to a total of three shots on goal with the man advantage.
The Knights have gone two straight games without allowing a power-play goal after giving up one in seven straight before that.
“We were in sync,” Stone said. “I thought we did a good job keeping the shifts short, rolling over guys.”
3. ‘Work to do’
The Knights missed out on a chance to take over first place in the Pacific Division and head into a nine-day break holding the second wild-card spot with 57 points (25-20-7).
They finished the road trip 1-2-1 and don’t play again until Jan. 31 at Carolina.
“We talked. We’re not where we want to be going into the break,” DeBoer said. “We have some work to do, and it’s going to be a sprint to the finish line. Get some rest, refresh and reset and come back ready to go to work because this is going to be a dogfight right to the end.”