Golden Knights’ third-period woes continue

Nov 14, 2019 7:06 AM

Sometimes, desperate times call for desperate measures.

And sometimes, things are simply weird.

Welcome to Wednesday’s game at T-Mobile Arena, where two penalty shots were awarded, neither were successful, three defensemen scored goals and things were so wide open, you’d have thought they were playing hockey on a frozen pond.

But despite a major shakeup of the lineup, the return of a key forward and playing at home, the Vegas Golden Knights continued their floundering ways, falling 5-3 to the Chicago Blackhawks.

“Again, it was a third period where we didn’t play well,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “I liked the way we played the first two periods. But we gave them too many opportunities.”

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And while it’s just mid-November, the Knights are underachieving and were hoping that change could be a catalyst for a struggling team which has dropped four straight.

The Knights welcomed back Alex Tuch, who missed the last four games with an upper-body injury and had played just two contests all season due to a different injury suffered late in the preseason. 

But that wasn’t the only move.

Gallant did what all coaches who are trying to get their players’ attention do — he shook up his lines.

Max Pacioretty took Jonathan Marchessault’s spot on the first line. Cody Eakin moved up to the second line while Paul Stastny dropped down to the third line to play with Tuch and Cody Glass. Nic Roy centered the fourth line playing with William Carrier and Ryan Reaves.

“I thought they responded well the first two periods,” Gallant said in his attempt to send a message to his players. “I liked it a lot. For two periods I thought our energy was good. Everybody was jumping and our forecheck was better. The only thing that wasn’t good was giving up the opportunities that we gave up.”

While well intentioned, the changes did not produce the desired result. In fact, at times, the Knights looked like a bunch of guys who had never played together as they found themselves on the wrong end of several odd-man rushes and allowed the Blackhawks to dictate the tempo.

“We played Chicago’s game tonight,” Knights forward Reilly Smith said after the Blackhawks defeated Vegas for the first time in seven meetings. “They’re not a team you want to trade chances with.”

Smith said the juggling act had nothing to do with the lapses by the forwards.

“We’ve got a lot of talented forwards,” he said. “There’s no excuse for the way we played.”

The deficiencies still linger. They remain lax in their own end, with the defensemen backing in and giving the opposition time and space to operate and get off quality shots. 

Offensively, they’re getting virtually nothing from their star players.

It figured to be a weird night when Chicago’s Zack Smith was awarded a penalty shot just 44 seconds into the contest. His attempt beat Marc-Andre Fleury only to hit the post.

The Knights took a 2-0 first period lead on goals from William Carrier and William Karlsson. But Chicago answered with one later in the period from Patrick Kane.

Tuch thought he had made it 3-1, but his shot had hit the underside of the crossbar and never crossed the goal line. Moments later, Chicago took the lead as defensemen Calvin deHaan and Erik Gustafsson scored 45 seconds apart to put the Blackhawks up 3-2.

Later in the second period, Marchessault had a chance to tie it when he was awarded a penalty shot after goaltender Corey Crawford threw his stick at the puck. But Marchessault’s attempt missed the mark.

It summed up the way things have been going for Vegas of late.

As the third period wound down, Gallant re-shuffled his lines and not much came of it. Now he has to figure out what next can he do to snap his team out of its funk.

One thing is for certain — there is no quick fix to this. 

“We just have to keep working hard,” Smith said. “It starts with a good work ethic.”

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