GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Golden Knights’ plan was to give backup goaltender Malcolm Subban more starts this season.
So much for that.
Subban left after the first period of his season debut Thursday night because of an undisclosed injury, and the Knights dropped a 4-1 decision to Arizona for their second straight loss.
“He played a great first period. He was unbelievable,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “It should have been probably 6-1 if it wasn’t for him in the net. He got hurt, and he’s day to day.”
Subban allowed two goals, but stopped Michael Grabner on a short-handed breakaway in the first five minutes and made a phenomenal pad save on Carl Soderberg later in the period.
Subban has been injury prone throughout his time with the Knights. He had two stints on injured reserve during the club’s inaugural season and also missed a month because of injury last season.
If Subban has to go on IR, either Garret Sparks or Oscar Dansk is expected to be recalled from the American Hockey League. The Knights play a back-to-back starting Saturday against Calgary at T-Mobile Arena.
Here’s what else stood out from the Knights’ loss:
1. Turn off the snooze alarm.
The Knights got off to fast starts in each of their first three games, scoring within seven minutes. They led 2-0 after 5:21 on opening night against San Jose and took the lead at 5:01 of the first period in the rematch against the Sharks.
Even Tuesday’s loss to Boston featured a fast start by the Knights with two goals in the first 8:20.
But Arizona swarmed the Knights early, forcing Subban into a handful of difficult saves, and went ahead at the 8:00 mark when Conor Garland’s pass deflected in off Knights defenseman Nic Hague.
“We didn’t have any intensity,” Gallant said. “We lost the game in the first period. We’ve got to be better.”
The Knights were hemmed in their defensive zone for long stretches in the first and had a paltry 29.6 percent of the shot attempts during 5-on-5 play, according to the website NaturalStatTrick.
“You know it’s going to be kind of a slow, grind game, and you have to be patient with your chances,” center Paul Stastny said. “I think we got away from playing like that and trying to play that run-and-gun and make plays when they weren’t there, and that just fed into their game.”
2. Shuffling on defense.
For the second straight game, Nate Schmidt’s absence was felt on the blue line, as the Knights struggled to contain the speedy Coyotes’ forwards.
Arizona had four breakaways in the first two periods, though Garland was the only player to convert.
The pairing of Nick Holden and Jon Merrill each finished with a minus-3 rating and were on the ice together for two of the four goals.
That pairing was split up in the second period, with Merrill joining Deryk Engelland and Holden partnering with Hague.
“We didn’t like the last two games, so just trying to (change) things a little,” Gallant said. “To a man, we didn’t play well. That’s the bottom line.”
3. Searching for consistency.
After getting up for both games against San Jose, the Knights failed to put together a 60-minute effort in back-to-back games against Boston and Arizona, much to the dismay of Gallant.
Thursday’s loss was the first in franchise history at Gila River Arena in five games.
“We didn’t have enough in-zone time, and that definitely shot us in the foot,” said defenseman Shea Theodore, who scored the Knights’ goal. “I think we just have to go back to basics. … Definitely tweak some things and kind of find our identity a little bit.”