Updated November 17, 2021 - 4:36 am
The Golden Knights couldn’t hold back the storm forever.
The Knights spent most of Tuesday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes chasing, defending and biding their time for an opportunity to strike at T-Mobile Arena. They didn’t control the puck much against the NHL’s points percentage leaders, but were scrappy enough to be tied 2-2 entering the third period.
It took one bad bounce to undo all their good work. A blocked shot by left wing Evgenii Dadonov hopped to Carolina rookie right wing Seth Jarvis in the slot 1:11 into the third, and he buried the puck for the game-winner in the Hurricanes’ 4-2 victory before an announced crowd of 17,737.
“They were the better team, and in this league, you usually get what you deserve,” coach Pete DeBoer said.
Jarvis’ goal was lucky for the Hurricanes, but they earned the break with the way they controlled play.
They had a 42-23 edge in shots on goal and a 60-30 edge in shot attempts at five-on-five. The depleted Knights, who were without left wings Jonathan Marchessault and William Carrier (COVID-19 protocols), along with injured players Max Pacioretty, Jack Eichel, William Karlsson, Alec Martinez, Zach Whitecloud and Nolan Patrick, had difficulty getting sustained offensive-zone time.
They still fought back after goals from defenseman Tony DeAngelo and center Sebastian Aho gave Carolina a 2-0 lead in the first period. Center Brett Howden scored his second goal 2:53 into the second after winning a battle for a loose puck against Hurricanes defenseman Brendan Smith, the brother of Knights left wing Reilly Smith.
Defenseman Shea Theodore tied the game 1:19 later.
The Knights couldn’t keep up their push and saw their three-game winning streak end. Center Vincent Trocheck added a goal with 6:19 to play for the Hurricanes.
“We fought back hard in the second period, but we have to find ways to play a little bit smarter,” captain Mark Stone said. “Frustrate our opponents a little bit more.”
Here are three takeaways from the loss:
1. Defense steps back
The Knights started their six-game homestand with shutdown performances against the Seattle Kraken and Minnesota Wild.
Since then, their defense has slipped. The Knights allowed 14 high-danger chances at five-on-five Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks and gave up another 14 Tuesday. They allowed only eight combined against the Kraken and Wild.
The Hurricanes entered Tuesday third in the NHL in shot attempts per 60 minutes at five-on-five and first in high-danger chances per 60 minutes.
“Their forecheck was good, and we didn’t break pucks out well,” defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “They almost have a full-court press, and you’ve got to execute. We got into trouble a lot of times where we got stuck in our own end. When they have skill like that, it’s going to cost us. We’ve got to clean that up, and we will next game.”
2. Lehner stays strong
The Knights stayed close in a game in which they were being outshot and outchanced because of goaltender Robin Lehner.
Lehner continued to impress despite having his four-game winning streak end. He made 38 saves and has stopped 176 of the 189 shots he’s faced in his past six games. That’s a .931 save percentage.
Lehner is tied for second in the NHL in starts with 13 and ranks first in shots faced (444) and saves (407).He has faced 31 more shots than any other goaltender.
“Robin gave us a chance to be in that game,” DeBoer said. “I thought he was our best player again tonight.”
3. More injuries
The hits kept coming for the Knights.
Defenseman Shea Theodore crashed in the corner of the offensive zone with 8:15 to play. He was checked by a trainer before skating off the ice to the locker room.
His late exit was a sour note on an otherwise strong game. Theodore has a goal and seven assists in his past seven games after scoring one goal in his first six. DeBoer didn’t have an update on Theodore’s status after the game.
Dadonov also exited with 1:49 remaining after being hit with a stick in the face.
“The success we’ve had in four years, nobody’s feeling sorry for us,” Stone said. “So we’ve got to find ways to generate points, generate wins.”
Contact Ben Gotz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.