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Golden Knights fix 1 problem, create others in loss to Blues

Updated November 23, 2021 - 7:22 am

One of the Golden Knights’ few complaints about their recent 5-1 homestand was they got off to poor starts.

They fixed that issue in Monday’s matchup with the St. Louis Blues. But they sprung too many other leaks in a 5-2 loss in Enterprise Center in the start of a two-game road trip.

The Knights scored two early goals to go up 2-0, but the Blues came roaring back with three goals in a 2:15 span to take the lead going into the first intermission.

“We got the start we wanted for a change and we talked about that and then we let them back in the game,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “If you’re going to win on the road, you can’t beat yourself in this league. I thought that was the case in the first. We just made some mistakes, took some penalties. Just a recipe for disaster when you’re on the road. ”

The Knights had conceded the first goal in three of their past four games entering Monday. They were 3-1 in that span, but they knew that wasn’t a trend likely to continue.

Center Chandler Stephenson provided the fast start, scoring off a rebound 36 seconds into the game. Right wing Reilly Smith followed with a breakaway goal 6:50 into the first.

The air quickly came out of the Knights’ balloon. Center Ryan O’Reilly scored at the bottom of the right faceoff with 9:45 left in the period. Center Tyler Bozak got his first goal 1:42 later off a rebound and tied the game. Then defenseman Justin Faulk got a breakaway and beat goaltender Robin Lehner for the 100th goal of his career with 7:30 left in the period.

The barrage came within the span of four shots. The Knights never recovered, and left wing Brandon Saad and defenseman Niko Mikkola scored in the second and third period, respectively, giving the Blues five unanswered goals.

“They scored one and it kind of snowballed on us pretty quickly,” Lehner said. “It was a pretty big momentum swing and we’ve got to handle that better.”

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

1. Lineup shuffling

The Knights, as is their norm this season, moved players in and out in their first road game since Nov. 7.

Defenseman Shea Theodore returned after missing two games. Waiver pickup Adam Brooks made his Knights debut. Center Brett Howden and defenseman Dylan Coghlan were scratched as a result after playing in Saturday’s win against Columbus.

Brooks played third-line center Monday, won five of his eight faceoffs and had one shot on goal. He received 1:45 of power-play time, but the Knights didn’t score and fell to 0 for their last 10 on the man advantage.

“He’s getting that opportunity because of the guys we have out of the lineup,” DeBoer said. “There’s a lot of guys getting looks on the power play right now because of the situation. It’s on those guys to make the most of their opportunity and make it so we have to make them a consideration going forward.”

2. Stone snakebitten

Knights captain Mark Stone got close to scoring his first goal Monday but couldn’t convert.

Stone hit the crossbar shorthanded off his backhand in the first period. Then early in the second Stephenson set him up in front and Stone fired the puck over the net.

The right wing has six assists in seven games and has played five games since suffering an injury Oct. 14 against the Los Angeles Kings. His 21 goals in 55 games last season were the second-most on the Knights.

“I think any guys that have missed extensive time are going to have to work their way back into the game,” DeBoer said. “This isn’t going to be an automatic that as these guys jump back into our lineup, they’re going to be up to game speed. It’s going to take them a while to get their timing and everything else. He’s still a very good player for us.”

3. Smith stays hot

Smith scored a goal for the third straight game. He has scored six in his last seven games, giving him the second-most on the Knights with eight.

Defenseman Ben Hutton sent him a pass through the neutral zone after Faulk turned the puck over, and Smith beat goaltender Jordan Binnington five-hole off his forehand.

“Hutton made a great play just being able to stretch the zone and find me,” Smith said. “I’m going to keep on trying to get breakaways and odd-man rushes from neutral-zone coverage. Hopefully I can keep on finding those spots.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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