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Graney: Boston too much for depleted Golden Knights team

Resiliency can only take you so far.

Sometimes, you need the horses on ice.

Tough to beat the NHL’s best team with a fully healthy side. Really tough without one.

But that was reality for the Golden Knights on Sunday night, 3-1 losers to Boston before 18,114 at T-Mobile Arena.

It means the teams will have split the season series, and yet you have to believe the Knights are thinking about what could have been with this second meeting.

They competed without their three best players, their two best defensemen in Alex Pietrangelo (personal reasons) and Shea Theodore (injured) and best forward in Jack Eichel (injured).

They then lost defenseman Zach Whitecloud to injury not two minutes into the second period.

He needed help limping off. It didn’t look good.

Tough go at it, this.

Be more aggressive

“We battled hard but gave up a little too much,” said Knights captain Mark Stone, who had the team’s lone goal via a first-period power play. “Sometimes, when you lose guys, you start to play a little more passive. I think we have to get back to that aggressive style and keep plays alive.”

They’re not good five-on-five right now when it comes to generating much offense and haven’t been since winning 4-3 in a shootout at Boston just a week ago.

They didn’t finish a few breakaways Sunday. Didn’t finish a few two-on-ones. Hit a post. Didn’t make the types of plays needed against such an opponent.

“That,” coach Bruce Cassidy said, “is where the goal scoring comes from. … We just have a tougher time finishing in this building for whatever reason. We have to correct that.”

Nothing new. The Knights have struggled to score at home all season. It’s a pretty empty Fortress when talking goals for the home side. It went to 3-1 Boston in the third period and felt like 10-1.

Stone says guys might be gripping their sticks too tight. That there needs to be more pinching in and keeping plays alive with the forecheck. Cassidy says his team needs more of a shooter’s mentality instead of always trying to make the extra pass, the really nice play.

Hey. Ugly goals can win games, too.

Look. It was going to happen. Guys were going to get hurt. The schedule was going to begin bunching up. Some players who spent most of 2021-22 on the shelf were going to play more games already this year than last.

To a man, the Knights spent much of the offseason talking about proving others wrong, That not making the playoffs last season was a mere one-off. That they would quickly return to form.

And they did, sprinting from the locker room to a 13-2 start. They were terrific early on, but you knew things would somewhat even out to a point. And they have, the Knights going 7-7-1 in their past 15 games.

But good teams find a way, however unlikely in some areas or with certain contributors — see Carrier, William. The Knights have pushed through more times than not. Boston just proved too big a challenge.

It was heated. Physical. Chippy. Everything you want from two of the league’s top teams. Played with an edge from the opening drop. It’s too bad this only happens twice a season. Could do for a lot more of this matchup.

Maybe we get it come early summer.

Still on top

For now, the the Knights need to worry first about getting healthy.

No one in the Pacific Division has made much of serious push toward where they exist at the top. Winnipeg might have overtaken the Knights in win percentage throughout the Western Conference, but the divisional edge remains healthy.

One loss to an excellent team doesn’t change that.

“I thought we did a pretty good job limiting the (Boston) chances,” Stone said. “They just capitalized on three that they got. We just need to find a way to produce more offensively.”

Always helps. Goals are good. They rock.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and 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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