Golden Knights coach Pete DeBoer labeled Saturday afternoon’s game against Edmonton as the one that will define the road trip.
“It’s either average or really good,” he said.
Following a 4-0 loss to the host Oilers at Rogers Place, the Knights were left with an unsatisfied feeling from their three-game swing through western Canada.
They finished with three of a possible six points and missed a chance to overtake Los Angeles for third place in the Pacific Division. The Kings host Columbus late Saturday.
The Knights have six games remaining and host New Jersey on Monday at T-Mobile Arena.
“We knew we weren’t going to run the table,” DeBoer said. “We talked about that two weeks ago. We were going to drop some points along the way. We’re still right in the thick of things.”
Coming off what winger Jonathan Marchessault called the best game of the season in a win over Calgary on Thursday, the Knights had an opportunity to bolster their playoff hopes. Instead they allowed two goals in the opening 5:16 of the third period to fall behind 3-0.
Defenseman Cody Ceci scored 35 seconds after the puck was dropped for the final stanza. Forward Warren Foegele pounced on an Alec Martinez turnover and beat goalie Logan Thompson on a breakaway to pad the Oilers’ lead less than five minutes later.
“You can’t give up a goal a minute into the third period,” Stone said. “It sets you back on your heels and you start chasing the game, giving up chances. That’s why we were giving up those third and fourth goals.”
Evander Kane added a short-handed goal late for Edmonton, which extended its lead in the standings over the Knights to seven points.
Here’s what stood out from the game:
1. Air-tight Oilers
Edmonton took a huge step defensively since coach Jay Woodcroft was hired Feb. 10. Against the Knights, the Oilers did a solid job protecting the area around the crease and preventing quality chances.
Goaltender Mike Smith finished with 39 saves and recorded his second consecutive shutout after he blanked Nashville on Thursday.
The Knights were averaging 4.33 goals per game since March 24 and had 16 goals their past three games but generated only eight high-danger chances at even strength, according to NaturalStatTrick.com. That’s the fewest the Knights have had since they finished with seven in a 3-0 loss at Minnesota on March 21.
This was the seventh time the Knights were shut out, matching their total from the past two seasons combined.
“I think there’s some things that certainly we’re getting better at, but it’s the same thing,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “We’ve got to find a way to score goals in these tough games. In tight, especially. Teams are going to really tighten up in the D zone here moving forward so we’ve got to find a way to bear down up front.”
2. Supporting cast strikes again
The Knights backchecked hard and turned the neutral zone into quicksand. That resulted in Oilers stars Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid being held without a point for the third straight meeting. But the Knights fell to 1-2 in those games.
Edmonton won three of four in the season series.
Nine players recorded points for the Oilers, including defenseman Kris Russell who scored his first goal of the season in the opening period.
“We had all the pressure on them for the first 15 minutes of the game,” Stone said. “We just made some mistakes and started giving them grade-A opportunities.”
3. Minor impact
The real “Money Line” featuring the Knights’ three highest-priced forwards made its debut in the third period. But Jack Eichel and Max Pacioretty couldn’t get Stone going, either.
In 17:44 of ice time against the Oilers, Stone finished with zero shot attempts. He doesn’t have a point in three games since being activated from long-term injured reserve at the start of the road trip and hasn’t influenced the action outside of a couple of takeaways.
Pacioretty scored in his first game back from injury April 9 but also went without a point on the road trip.
“We didn’t put enough pressure on (Smith),” Stone said. “I thought we started cheating a bit to try and find the offense, which allowed them to generate their chances.”