MONTREAL — Peter DeBoer has been behind the Golden Knights’ bench for a total of 125 minutes of game time plus a shootout.
In that span, he’s witnessed the good, bad and just about everything else his new team has to offer.
The Knights were plagued by many of the same issues that cost coach Gerard Gallant his job last week, but showed plenty of fight in the third period Saturday to salvage a point in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre.
“There’s a lot of character in that room that shows by the deficit and the battle back,” DeBoer said. “We’re a work in progress, but I like what I’ve seen so far.”
Reilly Smith tied the game at 4 on a deflection with 7.5 seconds remaining in regulation after Max Pacioretty brought the Knights within a goal with 1:58 left.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made seven stops in overtime, including a pair of 10-bellers. But in the shootout, he couldn’t deny Ilya Kovalchuk and Tomas Tatar, who converted in the fourth round to send the Knights to their first shootout loss (3-1).
Jonathan Marchessault scored in the first round of the shootout before Canadiens goaltender Carey Price turned away attempts by Shea Theodore, Alex Tuch and Smith.
The Knights lost for the fifth time in their past six games (1-4-1) and are in a four-way tie in the Pacific Division with Edmonton, Calgary and Arizona at 57 points. Vancouver leads the division with 58 points after beating San Jose 4-1 on Saturday night.
“With the skill we have and the work ethic we have, I think we kind of knew we could come back in that game,” Marchessault said. “At the end of the season, that’s going to be a big point for us.”
Here’s what stood out from the loss:
1. Defensive breakdowns
The Knights fell behind 3-0 for the fifth time in seven games on first-period goals by Nick Cousins, Kovalchuk and Joel Armia, and didn’t give Fleury much help on the first two.
Canadiens forward Dale Weise was unimpeded on the forecheck and intercepted Nic Hague’s pass behind the Knights’ net, then quickly fed Cousins in front for the first of his two goals.
Cousins slid a shot under Fleury that trickled across the goal line before Hague could sweep it away.
Less than seven minutes later, Mark Stone was left to defend a 2-on-1. The Knights broke up the initial rush, but Kovalchuk wasn’t cleared from the front of the net and eventually tucked in his own rebound.
“I’m not sure we deserved to be down 3-0 after the first, but we were,” DeBoer said. “The good news is we handled that adversity the right way.”
2. Timely saves from Fleury
The Knights hardly touched the puck in overtime, which is becoming a recurring theme, but were bailed out by Fleury again.
He stuffed defenseman Ben Chiarot on a 2-on-0 with about two minutes to go, then made the save of the game with 50 seconds left in the extra session.
Kovalchuk got behind the defense and tried to go up high with his shot, but Fleury stacked his pads and flashed the glove to give the Knights a chance in the shootout.
“You know, we could have had two points if I could have stopped one of those two guys in (the shootout),” Fleury said. “But it’s a good comeback. That’s not easy. So, it was a big point for us that might matter down the road.”
3. Chilly reception
Pacioretty received a mixed reaction from the fans when the starting lineups were announced and was jeered when he was shown on the video scoreboard during the singing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
As the game went along, the former Canadiens captain was booed each time he touched the puck.
But Pacioretty got his revenge late in the third period when he snapped a shot from the high slot past Price for his team-best 21st goal.
“At the time, it was a good feeling,” Pacioretty said, “but we still had a lot of work to do.”