DETROIT — For all of their talk about sitting back too much and playing on their heels, it was an unnecessary gamble that cost the Golden Knights on Sunday.
Detroit’s Anthony Mantha scored with 30.9 seconds remaining, as the Golden Knights squandered another third-period lead in a 3-2 loss to the Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena.
“We played 55 great minutes of hockey and then blew it in the last five,” an incensed coach Gerard Gallant said. “I think it was the last three, three-and-a-half minutes that we stopped using our heads. We forced plays. We tried to break up plays in the neutral zone, and we give them at least two breakaways. Can’t do that.”
The Knights entered the third period with a 2-1 lead against the team with the league’s worst record, but allowed two goals in the final 9:03 and dropped their third straight to finish the four-game road trip with three of a possible eight points.
It’s the fourth time in the past 11 days the Knights couldn’t hold a lead in the third period after falling in overtime to Montreal, Winnipeg and Toronto.
This game also appeared to be headed to OT until Detroit’s Robby Fabbri controlled the puck near his blue line and sent a rink-wide pass toward Mantha.
Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb stepped up in the neutral zone and tried to knock the puck out of the air with his stick but whiffed, allowing Mantha to streak down the right wing.
Defenseman Nate Schmidt raced across the ice but didn’t get there in time before Mantha snapped his 11th goal past Malcolm Subban’s blocker.
“We’ve got to find a way to be resilient when a team comes back in the game,” left wing Max Pacioretty said. “We’ve got to be confident in our team and our abilities to know that if a team comes back on us, we’re still able to close them out or at least bring it to overtime and try to finish them off there.”
Here’s what stood out from the Knights’ loss:
1. Going through the motions.
Maybe it was the early start time on the holiday weekend, but both teams looked like they needed an acai bowl and a Red Bull to get them going.
The second period was especially dull, as the teams combined for five shots on goal.
The Knights did a solid job keeping Detroit to the perimeter, and Subban had to make two saves in 20 minutes. That set a season low for fewest shots on goal allowed in a period. The previous mark was four in the third period against Anaheim on Oct. 27.
Meanwhile, the Knights mustered a mere three shots against Red Wings goalie Jonathan Bernier, which also was a season low.
“There’s no excuse,” said Jonathan Marchessault, who had the Knights’ first goal. “We lost last game and we were ready. I thought we played a good two periods, but it’s a one-shot game. They came back and they got the lead with 30 seconds left. It’s a tough one.”
2. Tough luck.
Subban made his third start in the past five games as the Knights completed a back-to-back and was the hard-luck loser after stopping 16 of 19 shots.
But he might want at least two of those goals back.
Andreas Athanasiou blew a slap shot under his right pad for a power-play goal late in the first period that tied the score at 1.
In the third, defenseman Madison Bowey whipped a shot while falling to the ice that went short side off the inside of the post to tie the game.
3. Patches heats up.
Pacioretty is known as a streaky goal scorer and is carrying one of the few hot sticks after a run of bad luck earlier this season.
He finished off a pretty feed from Nicolas Roy at 9:04 in the second period and has goals in three straight games and four of his last five.
Pacioretty is third on the Knights with six goals and his 16 points are tied for second on the team with William Karlsson. He is on pace for 69 points, which would be a career high.