WASHINGTON — The Golden Knights knew the bounces would even out at some point.
The defending Stanley Cup champions were piling up wins to start the season — 11 in their first 12 games — but didn’t like how they played for stretches in narrow victories against the likes of Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Montreal. They’re experienced enough to be aware what was likely to happen next.
The Knights would need to start stringing better performances or their record would start to suffer. And even if they did, there was no guarantee they would be on the other end of a game in which they played well and lost.
That’s what happened Tuesday against the Washington Capitals. The Knights created chance after chance in front of the net, yet were turned aside at every turned by goaltender Charlie Lindgren in a 3-0 loss.
The team can’t let that frustration carry over into the rest of their five-game road trip, which continues Thursday in Montreal.
“We’ve played some games this year where we probably shouldn’t have won, and we understand that,” defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “That being said, we want wins, but we’ll go back and have a good day tomorrow and get ready for Montreal.”
The setback to the Capitals was the Knights’ third defeat in four games, something that team hasn’t done in 10 months.
The last time they got only two points in a four-game stretch was their 0-2-2 road trip before the All-Star break last season from Jan. 22 to 28. All the Knights did after that was go 22-4-5 the rest of the regular season and 16-6 in the playoffs to win the franchise’s first championship.
Authoring a similar response starts with burying chances.
The Knights scored two goals in their first regulation loss of the season Nov. 5 in Anaheim. The team’s energy appeared sapped playing for the second straight day and the third time in four nights.
The Knights then lost 4-1 to the Kings on Nov. 8, with center Chandler Stephenson’s absence forcing coach Bruce Cassidy to juggle the forward lines. They then were shut out out for the first time since Feb. 27 against Colorado in Washington.
It’s hard to point to scoring as an issue when the Knights rank ninth in the NHL in goals per game (3.44) and scored five goals in their one win during this four-game stretch against San Jose. Cassidy did acknowledge the team might have to look at how it can be better grinding out points in low-scoring games.
“When can we win a 2-1 game when we’re not scoring?” Cassidy said after the Capitals loss. “And tonight was one of those nights it could have been because, to me, it was essentially a 1-0 game. That’s one it’d be nice to get an equalizer and then the chance to win a 2-1 game.”
The Knights’ success to start the season at least gives them a buffer to survive a rough patch like this.
They still entered Wednesday with the most points (25) in the Pacific Division and Western Conference and the second-most in the NHL behind Boston (26).
They don’t want to sweat a few poor results that much, especially when they were a few missed chances from starting their road trip with a win.
“We’re playing well,” captain Mark Stone said. “We played a good hockey game tonight. We just didn’t get the result.”
Who: Golden Knights at Canadiens
When: 4 p.m. Thursday
Where: Bell Centre, Montreal
TV: KMCC-34, KnightTime+
Radio: KKGK (1340 AM, 98.9 FM)