Updated February 25, 2022 - 10:16 pm
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Golden Knights right wing Reilly Smith said his team didn’t overlook the Arizona Coyotes.
He claimed the Knights’ focus didn’t drift past the owners of the fewest points in the NHL before Friday and to Saturday’s matchup with the league-leading Colorado Avalanche.
But, he said, “I guess watching the game, you could have your doubts about that.”
The Knights scored once on 44 shots on goal and fell 3-1 to the Coyotes at Gila River Arena on Friday. The dropped two points immediately stung, as they dropped to third in the Pacific Division. The Los Angeles Kings moved up to second by beating Anaheim.
“There wasn’t a lot to like,” Smith said. “These are games you can’t lose. Especially this time of year. It’s pretty costly.”
The Knights, playing their first game since Sunday, had some chances early.
Defenseman Shea Theodore and right wing Keegan Kolesar had a 2-on-1 in the first period. Kolesar, center Brett Howden and defenseman Nic Hague had a 3-on-1 in the same frame.
The Knights still couldn’t score until left wing William Carrier gave them a 1-0 lead with 8:57 left in the second period with a spinning goal.
It appeared to be the breakthrough the team needed to cruise to victory against an Arizona club it already defeated 7-1 in the same building Dec. 3. This time, however, the Coyotes answered with a goal from defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere 3:13 later to tie the game 1-1.
Right wing Nick Schmaltz then gave Arizona the lead 3:16 into the third period on a tip 12 feet in front of goaltender Laurent Brossoit. The goal seemed to jolt the Knights awake. They had the game’s eight next shots on goal and 15 of the final 23.
Not one of them got past goaltender Scott Wedgewood, who kept moving throughout his crease to deny the tying goal. It didn’t help that the Knights’ two leading goal scorers weren’t on the ice by the end. Left wing Jonathan Marchessault didn’t play because of the flu. Left wing Max Pacioretty left in the second period with an undisclosed injury.
Left wing Mattias Janmark also didn’t play in the third period with an undisclosed injury. Coach Pete DeBoer didn’t have an update on Pacioretty and Janmark’s statuses after the game.
Without them, the Knights couldn’t find an equalizer. Schmaltz scored again into an empty net with 31 seconds remaining to seal the Coyotes’ 14th win in 52 games.
“Their goalie played really well,” right wing Chandler Stephenson said. “A lot of shots, a lot of opportunities. I think if we capitalize on half of our chances, it’s a different game.”
1. Power-play drought
The Knights had the chance to end Friday’s game quickly.
Janmark drew an interference penalty 1:47 into the first period. Center Jack Eichel drew a hooking call 3:12 later.
The Knights didn’t score on either power play. They haven’t scored a power-play goal in eight consecutive road games. The last time they did so was Dec. 28 against the Kings.
“I thought the first period was probably the turning point,” DeBoer said. “I thought we had multiple chances to really put them in a hole. Odd-man rushes, two power plays and let them hang around. That’s what happens when you let teams hang around.”
2. Whitecloud returns
Defenseman Zach Whitecloud celebrated an important achievment Friday.
It wasn’t just his return to the lineup after missing six games due to a broken bone in his foot. It was his 100th NHL game. The 25-year-old celebrated by getting an assist on Carrier’s goal, matching his career high with his 13th point.
Whitecloud leads the Knights with a plus-11 rating at five-on-five, according to the website NaturalStatTrick.com. It’s why the undrafted defenseman and college free agent signed a six-year extension in October.
“He’s a great player,” defenseman Brayden McNabb said Friday morning. “He’s very responsible in both sides of his game. Defensively and on the penalty kill, he’s huge. It’s a big boost for us definitely on the back end.”
3. Brossoit let down
Friday continued a difficult pattern for Brossoit.
He played well. The team in front of him did not.
Brossoit made 29 saves but fell to 1-2-1 since the All-Star break. He has a .930 save percentage in that span.
The Knights’ backup goaltender is 9-5-3 with a .905 save percentage and 2.66 goals-against average this season.