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Golden Knights can’t fight their way out of a loss to Oilers

EDMONTON, Alberta — The doors to their locker room wouldn’t open. That’s what several Golden Knights players experienced upon arriving at Rogers Place on Wednesday afternoon in preparation for Game 4 of this best-of-seven series.

It took a few minutes to solve the issue.

It might have better if it hadn’t.

The Knights couldn’t follow one sound effort with another, and we have a tied series.

Edmonton won 4-1 before 18,347 delighted fans, and the score doesn’t lie. The Oilers were a far better team.

Outplayed the Knights. Outshot them. Outhit them. Out-everything.

Here we go again. Back-and-forth. We’ve yet to see a game where both teams were at their finest. Yet to see one even close to it.

“Nothing surprises you anymore,” Knights captain Mark Stone said. “But we’ve given up the first goal in every game, so we have to find a better way to start.”

Fighting over it

Once thing is for sure: The more this series plays along, the testier things become. Edmonton was the more physical team between the whistles, but extracurricular activity on both sides defined much of the third period.

Five-minute majors. Ten-minute misconducts. This one had it all.

It aptly ended with a long fight between the Knights’ Nic Hague and Darnell Nurse. Some kind of punches in that one.

“A good fight from (Hague),” Stone said. “Didn’t take any (bleep).”

It was Tuesday afternoon when a soccer game broke out in a hallway outside the Knights’ locker room. You could hear the screams of joy. Yes. Several players were having themselves a time.

They were loose. Felt good about themselves and where they sat in the series.

“We’re always like that, win or lose,” forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “We need to be loose, play loose. That’s what builds team chemistry.”

They might have been a tad too loose to start Wednesday.

They knew the Oilers would push hard, and did they ever. It wasn’t the best start for Knights defenseman Shea Theodore, who took two penalties (one that was cashed in for a power-play goal) and committed a turnover that led to another.

It all meant a 3-0 lead for the Oilers after 20 minutes.

The Knights played slow. Didn’t manage the puck well. Didn’t move it fast enough, which allowed for what was a strong Edmonton forecheck to make a big difference.

Opportunity knocked, however, when the Knights had three power plays in the second period and couldn’t convert on any. Couldn’t finish when there was a chance to climb back into things. Couldn’t get the job done.

It was Knights coach Bruce Cassidy who said he didn’t believe the Oilers entered the game calculating odds about possibly falling behind 3-1 in the series. That all he thought Edmonton would be thinking about was being a better team than in Game 3. Well, the Oilers solved that issue.

They were 3-0 this season coming off an outing in which Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl didn’t record a point, which occurred in the previous game. Which is all sorts of ridiculous when you consider how few times it happened this season.

They’re 4-0 in such situations now. McDavid had two assists and Draisaitl one.

Unlock the doors

“We have a veteran group that understands the ebbs and flow of a series,” Cassidy said when asked to forecast Game 4. “Our guys know what it’s about. They have been in a lot of playoff series. We assume they’re going to be better, and we want to continue to get better and play good hockey.”

Edmonton was better. Much.

The Knights weren’t and didn’t play good hockey.

It all means a 2-2 series is heading back to Las Vegas for Game 5 on Friday at T-Mobile Arena.

I’m guessing the Knights won’t be locked out of any rooms then.

Maybe with less distraction, they’ll actually play better.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing who can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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