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Graney: Golden Knights sleep through alarm in Game 2 loss

Hockey players talk often about pregame naps they like to take.

I’m thinking those on the Golden Knights need better alarms.

Tempt the fate of sleepwalking through a first period enough and you’re eventually going to pay for it. The Knights did on Wednesday night with a 3-2 loss to Montreal in Game 2 of an NHL best-of-seven semifinal series before 17,920 at T-Mobile Arena.

Things are now tied at a game apiece and shift to Montreal for Games 3 and 4.

It’s in the Eastern Standard Time Zone. Maybe that’s what the Knights need to get going. New body clocks.

Consistent issue

“It has been a tough conversation here for a little while now, the last series (against Colorado) too,” said Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who scored both of his team’s goals. “It’s something we have to continue to talk about. Not good enough in the beginning. Not good enough in the first period.

“You can see when we get to our game what we can do, but not good enough to start.”

Example: The Knights now have a minus-7 goal differential in first periods of these playoffs. But unlike Game 1 on Monday, the sluggish beginning ultimately did them in.

Montreal led 2-0 after 20 minutes because the Knights couldn’t create any sort of breakouts as the Canadiens brought all sorts of pressure. Perhaps it’s to be expected. Montreal advanced to this round by winning seven straight games in which it never trailed. The Canadiens have better starts than Brad Keselowski off pit row.

Playing with the lead against Montreal is your kid sliding gleefully down the slopes on a cardboard box.

Playing from behind is an all-day hike through treacherous terrain.

At one point, the Canadiens led 3-0. Might as well try scaling La Madre Mountain in skates.

Think about it. In two games to open the series, Montreal had 15 high-danger chances to just two for the Knights in the opening period.

And when they gain an advantage, the Canadiens go about their business of protecting the middle of the ice and blocking shots and impressively clogging up space as a five-man unit.

Even when the Knights discovered good looks Wednesday, they would hit a post or miss the net or be at the mercy of Montreal goalie Carey Price.

It’s a series, for sure. The odds might still trend heavily in favor of the Knights to emerge victorious from it, but that forecast before Game 1 of total domination has officially been put to rest.

“Those people who said we were going to sweep are the same ones who said Colorado was going to sweep us,” Knights coach Pete DeBoer said. “You don’t get to the Final Four without knowing this is going to be a battle. If it takes overtime and seven games, then it takes overtime and seven games. You just want to make sure you move on.”

It’s off to Montreal, then, for games Friday and Sunday at Bell Centre. The largest hockey arena in the world with a capacity of 21,302 will reportedly welcome just 3,500 fans each night.

Not as crazy

It won’t be close to the party atmosphere of T-Mobile Arena. The ovations won’t be as deafening. All of that will change now.

So better how the Knights approach a first period.

“For whatever reason, our starts in the playoffs haven’t been good enough,” Knights captain Mark Stone said. “We’ve been burned before, and we were burned again tonight. You can’t go down 2-0 and expect to win the game.

“Chasing the game is not an easy task against anybody, but these guys play a good team game when they get the lead. We have to do a better job with our starts. We have to find our preparation.”

They need better alarms.

Might want to check those iPhones, T-Mobile …

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. 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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