Updated December 2, 2021 - 5:29 am
ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Golden Knights are used to Honda Center being a safe space.
Fly in, see Disneyland, pick up two points from the Anaheim Ducks. They entered Wednesday’s game 9-1 in the building in their history as part of their 18-3 overall record against the Ducks.
This latest trip was much different. The dangerous Ducks continued their impressive start to the season by defeating the Knights 6-5 to hold onto third place in the Pacific Division by points percentage.
Anaheim scored four goals in a 12:28 span in the second period to take control. It was the first time this season the Knights allowed four goals in a period.
“Far from good enough,” said goaltender Robin Lehner, who made his fourth straight start and seventh in the past eight games. “Myself included. That’s not Vegas hockey. We got to find our way back to play our type of hockey.”
The Knights (12-10-0) are used to pushing the Ducks around. Just last season, they were 7-1 against Anaheim by a combined score of 29-13.
But the Ducks (13-8-3) have sent a message that things could be different this season. They erased a 4-1 third-period deficit in their first meeting Oct. 29 at T-Mobile Arena before losing in a shootout. Then Wednesday, they exploded in the second period en route to their third win in four games.
Right wing Troy Terry started the scoring with a one-timer in transition 4:21 into the second. Right wing Rickard Rakell followed by roofing a shot past Lehner 2:05 later.
Left wing William Carrier stopped the bleeding by scoring on a three-on-one, but Anaheim kept coming. A shot from defenseman Josh Manson bounced off defenseman Alex Pietrangelo’s skate and in. Defenseman Hampus Lindholm had a long-range shot from the blue line find its way through traffic.
A late short-handed goal by defenseman Zach Whitecloud couldn’t rescue a poor 20 minutes by the Knights. They cut their deficit to one goal three times in the third but lost for the third time in four games.
“At the end of the night, you score four, five goals, you should win,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “Our attention to detail defensively wasn’t good enough.”
Here are three takeaways from the loss:
1. Zegras dazzles
One reason the Ducks look different this season is the emergence of second-year center Trevor Zegras. And he put on a show Wednesday.
The 20-year-old had three assists, drew Pietrangelo to the net on Manson’s goal and attempted a between-the-legs shot against Lehner in the third period. All in 13:32, the fifth-lowest ice time on his team.
The Ducks had a 19-4 edge in shot attempts with Zegras on the ice at five-on-five. The ninth overall pick in 2019 controlled play every time he stepped off the bench.
“They’ve got a lot of good, young players,” Lehner said. “They got through a little bit of rebuild, but they’ve got a lot of talent.”
2. Penalty kill locks in
A bright spot for the Knights is that their penalty kill is becoming a dangerous weapon.
They ranked 15th in the NHL entering Wednesday, but they’ve had back-to-back strong performances against high-end power plays. They held the top-ranked Edmonton Oilers to an 0-for-2 performance Saturday. And the third-ranked Ducks were 0-for-3 and gave up two short-handed goals to Whitecloud and left wing Mattias Janmark.
The Knights’ five short-handed goals are the most in the NHL. They briefly had as many short-handed goals as power-play goals Wednesday before left wing Max Pacioretty and right wing Reilly Smith struck on the man advantage in the third period.
“With short-handed goals and power-play goals … it’s almost (like) we have to come out with a point at least,” Janmark said. “But we don’t, so we pretty much gave this one away.”
3. Injury scare
The Knights have begun to trim names off their lengthy injury list. On Wednesday, it briefly looked as if their captain was going back on it.
Right wing Mark Stone was hooked 3:42 into the third period by Anaheim center Derek Grant and spun into the end boards of the offensive zone. He was attended to by a trainer, skated off the ice hunched over and went back to the locker room.
It was a scary sight, but Stone was back less than five minutes later. He provided a screen on Pacioretty’s goal that cut the deficit to 5-4.
“He gutted it out,” DeBoer said. “We’ll see tomorrow what we’re dealing with.”