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Golden Knights trust process despite recent results — Analysis

LOS ANGELES — Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant was overall pleased with his team’s performance in a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

Defenseman Brayden McNabb said the Knights played “a pretty good game.” Left wing Max Pacioretty liked the team’s first two periods. But all those words felt hollow after the result.

That’s the conundrum the Knights (9-9-3) are facing right now. Their assessment is that they haven’t played poorly lately. The results are bad, but the process is sound.

Their five-game losing is likely testing that theory. While numbers like expected goals percentage paint the Knights as unlucky, other numbers loom large. Seven, their place in the Pacific Division. Twelve, their place in the Western Conference. And 22, their place in the NHL overall.

”We all know the skill that we have in the locker room,” right wing Reilly Smith said. “There was high expectations for us but we have those same high expectations for our group as well. When we’re not living up to it, in the standings where we are right now, it’s not ideal. No one likes this feeling.”

The Knights still display flashes of brilliance that make it easy to remember why they were pegged as a Stanley Cup contender before the season. They even showed some against the Kings.

Left wing Jonathan Marchessault’s second-period goal was a beauty that came from the blue line. The hard, elevated one-timer showed why the 28-year-old has scored at least 25 goals each of the last three seasons.

Center William Karlsson’s later second-period tally was also impressive. While Kings defenseman Sean Walker’s misplay of the puck by the crease was fortuitious for the Knights, the play still required a quick touch pass from left wing Max Pacioretty. Then Karlsson had to elevate the puck in a hurry for his team-high 20th point.

Those two plays showed the heights the Knights can reach, and it’s why they’re not panicking about their start just yet. But they need better results. And fast.

They do appear due for some positive regression moving forward. The Knights’ expected goals percentage at 5-on-5 after Saturday’s game was 52.96. Their actual goals percentage was 42.86. If the team buries its chances like Marchessault and Karlsson did against the Kings, those numbers should get closer together.

“We’re going to get out of this,” McNabb said. “We’re a good team. We’ve been playing a lot better. We’re not getting results right now but we have to stay with it. We can’t turn on each other. We have to stay positive as a group and move forward.”

Pacific slip

Saturday’s loss dropped the Knights to 5-2-0 against the Pacific Division. They’re 4-7-3 against non-division opponents.

They play Pacific foe Calgary at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Karlsson getting hot

When Karlsson has been good lately, he’s been really good.

The center scored two points in four of his last seven games. He scored none in the other three.

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

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

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