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3 takeaways from Golden Knights’ loss: Playoff climb gets steeper

Updated April 6, 2022 - 10:17 pm

Jack Eichel turned toward the T-Mobile Arena boards and let off a shot.

The Golden Knights center had just been turned aside by a masterful save by Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko, but scored anyway after recovering the puck. The play, which gave the Knights a 1-0 lead in the first period, seemed fitting for a team that is clawing its way toward a playoff spot.

It turns out it wasn’t nearly enough.

The Canucks, clinging to faint playoff hopes themselves, showed more fight and desperation Wednesday in a 5-1 win before a nervous announced crowd of 18,113. Vancouver scored five straight goals after Eichel’s to avenge its 3-2 overtime loss Sunday and snap the Knights’ five-game winning streak.

It was the Canucks’ first regulation win in 13 all-time meetings between the teams.

“You just want to flush it,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “Nothing really good to say. We got what we deserved.”

The Knights entered the game with an opportunity.

A win would have moved them two points behind Los Angeles for third place in the Pacific Division — and a guaranteed playoff spot — with 10 games left. They also would have jumped Dallas for a wild-card spot.

Instead, the Knights made their climb steeper. The Kings’ cushion was extended to four points. The Stars kept their one-point edge in the wild-card race with three fewer games played.

Eichel’s goal gave the Knights’ hope, but DeBoer said “it was just a matter of time the way we were playing” before Vancouver answered.

Center Bo Horvat tied the game on the power play with 3:22 remaining in the first. Center Brad Richardson gave the Canucks the lead 17 seconds later.

Vancouver kept pouring it on in the second period with goals from left wing Tanner Pearson and right wing Elias Pettersson. That made the score 4-1 heading into intermission, ironic because the Knights overcame a 3-0 deficit in the third in their previous home game against Chicago.

There was no comeback this time. Pettersson drew a penalty and scored again on the subsequent power play 1:11 into the third. It was the first time in nine games the Knights allowed more than four goals.

The timing was not great. The Knights, who saw their five-game home winning streak snapped, gave themselves even less margin for error as they fight to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time.

“We weren’t good enough by any means,” Eichel said. “With that being said, the season’s not over. We still have hockey to be played here. … If we find our game, I like us against anybody.”

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

1. Poor start

Eichel’s goal masked a myriad of early problems for the Knights.

They were having trouble dealing with Vancouver’s forecheck pressure and exiting their zone. They weren’t getting through the neutral zone cleanly and creating chances. DeBoer summed it up by saying “we didn’t do anything well tonight.”

The Canucks pushed back after conceding first and led 14-8 in shots on goal at the first intermission. They didn’t look back the rest of the way.

“It wasn’t our game,” defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “It’s a game, we lost, we didn’t have our best and we’re in playoff mode. When you lose a game in the playoffs, you can’t dwell on it. You flush it, and we’ve got a big game (Saturday) against Arizona.”

2. Eichel keeps pushing

Eichel is having a productive first playoff chase.

The 25-year-old, who also drew a slash in the first period with a nifty move around center J.T. Miller, extended his point streak to three games with his first-period goal. It was his 10th in 24 games with the Knights, a 34-goal pace over a full 82-game season.

“It’s been fun, and the games that mean things, there’s just that extra layer of intensity and desperation,” Eichel said. “We didn’t have that tonight. … We just got smoked.”

3. Power play slump continues

The Knights’ power play is in a funk again.

The team went 0-for-3 to fall to 0-for-12 its past five games. The Knights got a 58-second five-on-three in the third period and couldn’t score, though Demko had a large role in that. He made three saves before both penalties expired and finished with five overall on the penalty kill.

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

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