LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Except for their home record, the Golden Knights don’t have much to complain about. They lead the Western Conference and, more than a third into the season, rank as one of the NHL’s best teams.
But not at home. The New York Islanders got 35 saves from Semyon Varlamov before he left in the third period because of injury in beating the Knights 5-2 on Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 18,007 at T-Mobile Arena.
The Knights are 22-10-1 overall but 8-8 at T-Mobile.
What’s the deal? Why do the Knights seem to have a split personality?
Coach Bruce Cassidy said after Saturday night’s loss the answer is something of a mix; the Knights are a bit too aggressive in trying to force offense at home and not patient enough overall with just defending and waiting for opportunities.
“At home, that’s been our problem,” Cassidy said. “We’re trying to make plays against every team that comes in here early in the game and they’re (the opposition) ready to play and it’s not working out.”
On the road, the Knights take a more controlled approach, he said. They work harder at defending in the neutral zone and seem to manage the puck much, much better. “We check well, get pucks back and take advantage of our opportunities,” Cassidy said of his team’s road style.
Patience and intelligence are what’s needed against the Islanders, Cassidy said, a team that is disciplined in all three zones and manages the puck quite well.
Zach Parise and Brock Nelson each had a goal and an assist for the Islanders. Anders Lee, Hudson Faschling, Simon Holmstrom also scored goals and Jean-Gabriel Pageau had two assists. The goals by Parise and Nelson were empty-netters in the last 1:30.
Varlamov left with 6:22 left, replaced by Ilya Sorokin who stopped the only shot he faced. Reilly Smith had two power-play goals for the Knights, winners in six of nine before stumbling against the Isles.
Islanders coach Lane Lambert was surprised to see Varlamov come off the ice and said he didn’t know much about his goaltender’s status. “We’ll evaluate him in the next couple of days and see where he’s at,” Lambert said.
Knights captain Mark Stone was helped off the ice with 8:20 left after being hit by a shot from teammate Phil Kessel. Cassidy said Stone, who appeared to be favoring his left leg, didn’t appear to be seriously injured. More to come Sunday on the injury, Cassidy said.
Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo returned after missing nine games because of a serious illness to his daughter, 4, Evelyn. She returned home this week from a hospital after a bout with the flu and then encephalitis. She was immobilized for several days and just started walking recently. A full recovery is expected.
Pietrangelo played a team-high 21:45.
For the Knights, the loss was about poor decisions and being a bit sloppy defensively.
“Not making the right play at the right time,” Knights wing Keegan Kolesar said. “Being a defensive-minded team, they make it on those chances.”