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Golden Knights show lack of intensity in loss to Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets definitely aren’t the most talented team in the NHL but they may be one of the toughest.

And Saturday night, the Golden Knights appeared to have almost no interest in matching their intensity. The Blue Jackets muddied the game at T-Mobile Arena and labored to a 3-0 victory on the road.

They provided a physical challenge and the Knights backed down.

”We didn’t work hard enough, didn’t compete hard enough,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “You have those nights and tonight’s a bad night to have it because that team over there, like we said this morning, they’re going to work their tail off and that’s what they’ve done.”

The Blue Jackets blocked 13 shots, delivered 23 hits and played exactly the style of game that’s earned them 52 points this season. They played structured and sound defensively. They chipped pucks into the offensive zone and forechecked hard. They were tough in front of their net.

They cleared rebounds away quickly and didn’t give up many looks in the middle of the ice. The Knights finished with eight high-danger scoring chances during 5-on-5 play, tied for their fifth-fewest in a home game.

“They did a good job keeping us to the outside and they block a ton of shots and box you out,” right wing Mark Stone said. “You just need to do a better job getting to the net. There were some loose pucks to be had, we just didn’t capitalize.”

The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, were able to get in front of the Knights net. That’s how they scored their second goal. Center Pierre-Luc Dubois posted up in front of Marc-Andre Fleury and deflected Scott Harrington’s shot into the net 2:06 into the second period for his 15th goal.

Stone said the disparity in front of the respective nets was both a credit to the Blue Jackets and a knock on the Knights. Columbus did well to be quick and strong in front of their net but the Knights have shown, as recently as their 5-4 overtime comeback against the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 4, that they can play hard there too.

They just didn’t Saturday.

“We weren’t able to find those loose pucks and make it a little harder on their goalie,” Stone said. “I think it looks like some Grade-A chances for us, but we weren’t getting bodies at the net and that’s what they do well.”

The Knights’ effort should leave a bitter taste in their mouths at the end of their season-long, seven-game homestand. They now play eight straight on the road — four before the All-Star break/bye week, and four after.

They’ll need to accumulate points during that stretch as they’re now fifth in points percentage in the Pacific Division. But doing so will require the exact kind of effort Columbus gave Saturday.

The Knights will have to learn from the spine the Blue Jackets showed.

“Hey, just because we’ve got some skill and we’re supposed to be good, it doesn’t always equate to that,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said after the team’s morning skate Saturday. “This league, yes, superstars make a big difference in the league but man, you need your whole lineup playing in order to win.

“When you have everyone pulling hard and having a good effort, anything can happen. Bounces seem to be working for teams that are working hard and playing the right way.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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