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Los Knights? Bueno!

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

Long before Las Vegas got an NHL team, I suggested that it made sure to reach out to the city’s large Latino community and have a Spanish radio broadcast of the games.

Fortunately, Kerry Bubolz listened. And last year, selected home games were on ESPN Deportes (1460 AM).

This year, all the home games are being broadcast. Hopefully in the future, all games, home and away, will be broadcast, assuming it’s financially feasible.

But the announcement Monday by the team that it was expanding its social media reach to Spanish was an excellent move. Obviously, the hope is to grow the fan base and attract younger followers. Social media has proven to be the right medium to accomplish both.

I admit, my Spanish is extremely limited. I took French in high school and I would need help if I tried to conduct an interview with Marc-Andre Fleury or Pierre-Edouard Bellemare or Jonathan Marchessault in French.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the importance of what the Knights are doing by reaching out to the Latino community of Las Vegas. My question is: “What took them so long?”

Here’s a quick Q&A I conducted via email with Brian Killingsworth, the team’s chief marketing officer:

Q: Why do this now? Why not wait until next year? Better yet, why not have done it before this season?

A: “Our efforts to reach the Hispanic communities are always on-going. This was a concept that we wanted to do right in an authentic and intentional way. In order to do it right, we had to have the resources and strategy in place so we felt that now was the appropriate time.

“We are really pleased to have it launched and we are excited to continue to build on this and other initiatives the rest of this regular season, hopefully into the playoffs should we qualify, offseason and into next year. This is going to be a sustainable outreach.”

Q: How many Twitter followers are there for your English account? What is the projection for Spanish Twitter?

A: “Currently, we have just over 430,000 followers on Twitter. For @LosVGK, to corner ourselves on an actual projection is not prudent. “There is not a lot of baselines to measure this on as we are the first team in the NHL to have active accounts of this nature. We will reevaluate this as the content is produced and as we progress.”

Q: Are there plans to travel the radio guys next year or through this year’s playoffs? Or will the broadcast on ESPN Deportes remain strictly a home-only situation?

A: “This is something we will continue to evaluate. We would like to have as many games broadcast in Spanish on ESPN Deportes as possible. ESPN Deportes is an important part of our broadcasting assets.”

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The Stone Age Impacts Golden Knights Defense

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — When the Golden Knights acquired Mark Stone at the NHL trade deadline back on Feb. 25, it was assumed the offense would perk up as Stone had 28 goals in the bank from his time in Ottawa.

But who knew the defense would be the unit that has come alive?

Collectively, the Vegas blue line corps is playing some of its best hockey of the year. And while it may be a coincidence that it has come since Stone’s arrival, the changes Gerard Gallant made a few weeks ago, moving Deryk Engelland with Nate Schmidt, playing Shea Theodore with Brayden McNabb and giving Jon Merrill a regular spot in the lineup, seemed to have worked.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The defense accounted for both goals in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Calgary at T-Mobile Arena. More important, the Knights have allowed just nine goals in the six games Stone has worn the steel grey No. 61.

Obviously, Marc-Andre Fleury’s play in the crease has been a big part of that. But don’t discount the job his D-men are doing in front of him.

The Knights are winning more battles in their own end. They’re more active in using their sticks to take away the cross-ice pass. They are making smarter decisions in breaking out of their own end. They are pinching in the other team’s end more judiciously and not getting caught in as many odd-man rushes the other way. They continue to block shots at a high rate. They seem to be communicating better.

All of that was again on display Saturday here in Vancouver at Rogers Arena against a Canucks team which Vegas handled a week ago, 3-0, and 6-2 Saturday for their sixth straight win. The Knights scored a franchise-record five first-period goals and there was no looking ahead to tonight’s big game at the Scotiabank Saddledome and the rematch with the Flames.

And as many predicted, Stone finally scored as a Golden Knight as he opened the scoring 1:32 into Saturday’s contest.

Gallant said you never know what’s going to happen when you change your lineup. But these moves appear to have worked so far.

It was just shaking things up. When you’re losing, you’re not happy. So we made a few changes with the D and so far it’s worked. I like the way they’ve been playing. -Gallant

You ask the defensemen what’s turned things around, you get different answers.

I think change can be good sometimes. You get a little stagnant with the way you play. I just think that it’s about trending. If you continue to play well, you want to make sure you keep doing those things that help you win. Colin Miller and Jon Merrill have been playing fantastic for us. When you have that kind of depth on your team, that’s important. -Schmidt

Theodore said the defensemen are reacting better to the puck and making the right play more consistently.

I think we’re just quick to pucks and we’re not giving them as much time and space in the corners. Usually when you give teams with good skill players time down low they’re going to make plays. I think our centers have been coming in and killing those plays and that’s been big for us. -Theodore

Engelland said it has been a collective mindset that has seen the team’s defensive uptick.

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The Game’s In Great Shape … But Is It?

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

Is hockey in a good place?

The NHL’s 31 general managers seem to think so, as do the league’s top officials.

The annual GM’s meeting in Boca Raton, Florida wrapped up two days of congratulatory back-patting Tuesday as they declared the sport is healthy and there’s no need for radical change at this time.

You’re always looking and talking and tweaking. But the good news is you don’t have to find a problem. The game’s in pretty good shape right now. Real good shape. -Brad Treliving, Flames GM

The changes they implemented a couple of years ago, such as cracking down on slashing, appear to be working. According to sportsnet.ca, slashing penalties continue to fall and players have adjusted their games accordingly to avoid a trip to the penalty box.

Scoring continues to rise with an average of 6.2 goals per game, the highest it has been since 2006. That may be part and parcel with the fact slashing penalties have been on the decline, thus creating more quality chances for the guy with the puck.

It seems like we’re just about perfect. The game is in a really good place in terms of whatever you want to measure. Goal scoring’s up. Comebacks are up. Fighting’s down. Stoppages of play are consistent over the years. All the various ways we measure the game show us it’s just about as good as it’s ever been, which is great news for all of us. -George McPhee

He has a point. The game overall has more flow. We are seeing more teams rally to create a competitive game. Witness lowly Ottawa taking the Islanders into a shootout Tuesday after trailing 3-1 and 4-2 in the second period. Teams always think they have a shot to pick up a point.

The GMs, to their credit, keep looking to make hockey safer. They are proposing a player whose helmet comes off proceed directly to the bench rather than continue skating. For William Karlsson’s fans who love to see those flowing blond locks, that’s not good news. But better to have Wild Bill safely on the bench rather than suffer a serious head or eye injury because he lost his lid and decided playing without it was the macho thing to do as is the current hockey culture.

And speaking of culture, one thing I wished was addressed at the GM meetings apparently wasn’t. That something is injuries and the clandestine handling of them.

Currently, a guy gets hurt and the league leaves it up to the team to decide how much information gets disseminated. Some teams will tell you everything, a few just enough and most nothing more than a “lower-body” or “upper body.”

We all know how the Golden Knights operate in this department. McPhee divulges so little when it comes to injuries, you thought he worked in the CIA, not the NHL. He has said on more than one occasion that it’s about protecting his players.

Nobody outside the team truly knows what’s going on with Will Carrier. In Erik Haula’s case, GMGM had no choice but to confirm the guy hurt his knee back on Nov. 6 in Toronto. It was clearly evident and in plain sight for everyone to see.

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Brayden McNabb Is Getting Back On Track

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

I’m not a huge analytics guy. But when it comes to discussing how good Brayden McNabb has been for the Golden Knights, perhaps I need to Corsi-fy and Fenwick-ish my analysis of the 6-foot-4, 28-year-old defenseman.

Nah. I’ll just trust my own lying eyes.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

And what I see is a smart, honest hockey player who works well with his partner, helps out his goalie, makes wise decisions when to join the rush and isn’t afraid to sacrifice his body.

In other words, I like Brayden McNabb.

So do his coach and his teammates. He’s exactly what the Golden Knights need at this point of the season and moving forward into the postseason.

He has played in all 66 games. He leads the team in blocked shots (121). He is third on the Knights in hits (168) after Ryan Reaves and Will Carrier. He averages just under 20 minutes a game in time on ice. He is an excellent penalty killer pairing with Deryk Engelland.

He also has three goals and 14 points heading into Sunday’s game against Vancouver at T-Mobile Arena a the Knights continue to try and put some distance between themselves and Arizona for the third spot in the Pacific Division.

I think the longer you’re in this league, you get comfortable with everything. You know the system. You know your teammates. You learn when to join the rush and when to hang back. I’ve become smarter and I don’t take as many chances as I used to when I first got to the league. -McNabb

Gerard Gallant loves honest hockey players, guys he can just send over the boards and not be surprised at what they do. In McNabb, he’s got a player who’s as honest as the day is long.

I don’t know there’s much improvement from last year to be honest with you. He’s done the same job as last year and I loved him last year.

He’s a great penalty killer. He shuts down the other team’s top players and I like what he brings to our group. -Gallant

McNabb admits he’s not perfect. He had a tough stretch in mid-February where he was taking penalties, getting beat in his own end and simply not playing well. But he has turned it around. His last three games have seen a return to making good decisions, staying out of the box and doing his job. Not coincidentally, the Knights have won all three and are solidifying their third spot in the Pacific.

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The Golden Knights Have Found Their Captain

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

When the Golden Knights launched their inaugural season in 2017, the team decided it would not have a captain.

The mantra from general manager George McPhee and coach Gerard Gallant was, “We have 23 captains.”

They pointed to the veterans in the locker room as the team’s “leadership group.” If anything needed to be said, if anyone stepped out of line, Marc-Andre Fleury, James Neal, David Perron or Deryk Engelland would take care of it.

Sure enough, the room stayed together, the Knights had a historic first year and made it to the Stanley Cup Final.

But Neal and Perron left in July. Replacing them were Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty. Both have been in leadership roles with Pacioretty having served as the captain of the Montreal Canadiens, a prestigious honor given the history of that iconic franchise. Stastny was an assistant captain in Colorado.

Yet, you can’t help but wonder if something has been missing in the Vegas locker room this year. Yes, Fleury still commands everyone’s respect. Engelland is still with a voice among his teammates. I don’t know that either Stastny or Pacioretty are active in being leaders in Vegas since I’m not in the room on a daily basis. I would like to think they are.

But maybe the time has come to narrow the voices from 23 to one.

Mark Stone arrived Monday from Ottawa in the biggest trade on NHL deadline day and the 26-year-old who wore the “A” with the Senators would be the perfect person to be the Golden Knights’ first captain. Obviously not this season. But by September, the team should seriously consider giving Stone the “C.”

Here’s why.

He has seen what dysfunction can do to a team, how it can tear it apart and lead to frustration. He tried to hold the room together in Ottawa and while you can argue he wasn’t successful given the Senators’ record, the fact he came to the rink every night, played hard, and set an example of doing things the right way as the team’s best player speaks volumes to his character.

His performance in Vegas will earn his teammates’ respect. They’ve all played against him and he’s a pain to go up against. Now he’s one of them and the Knights will benefit from Stone’s work ethic, his skill, his experience, and his competitiveness and daily commitment. As GMGM said Monday after acquiring him, it’s not every day a special player joins your organization.

I don’t know that he changes it because we have a terrific room, great leadership, real quality people. He certainly adds to it. He’s as fine of a person as you can find in this game. You like him off the ice, you like him on the ice. Kelly McCrimmon knows him very well, he had him as a young player. I worked with him at the World Championships a few years ago, we won the gold medal in Russia. So, he is the type of player that you will always look for and hope to be able to land. -McPhee

Ultimately, it’s the players who have to believe in the guy they decide to follow. He’ll do his talking on the ice for the time being.

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Deal or No Deal? Should The Golden Knights Make A Move?

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

From Feb. 1 through Saturday night, there had been 20 trades consummated in the NHL.

The Golden Knights were not a participant in a single one of them.

The trade deadline is 24 hours away. And it begs the question: What will George McPhee do?

Will he make a major move? Will he make a couple of small deals? Will he stand pat?

You can make an argument for any of the above and have a valid point. My gut is telling me he is listening about participating in a big deal, one that perhaps could have multiple teams involved. Whether he takes action, only he knows. He doesn’t share his thoughts with me, though sometimes it would be nice to have a general philosophical conversation with GMGM about hockey and take his temperature on various topics surrounding the game in general and his team in particular.

But that’s not his style. So that leaves me to guess what I think he’s going to do, which is a dangerous, and most likely, inaccurate game.

A week ago, I proposed making a serious run at Ottawa forward Mark Stone, the team’s leading scorer. I cited several reasons why Stone should be McPhee’s target with the caveat being he has to have a guarantee Stone would agree to a long-term deal to play in Vegas. No rentals here.

As of this morning, Stone was still with the Senators while Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel are no longer in Ottawa, both having been dealt to Columbus in separate trades. I have no doubt Sens GM Pierre Dorion is going to demand a ton for his best remaining player and the price may simply be too steep at this point for the Knights.

But if you’ve watched this team perform the past three weeks, it’s not just scoring that they need or a boost to its anemic power play.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The defense has struggled, particularly Colin Miler and Brayden McNabb. McPhee watches the same game we all do and while he may view things through a slightly different prism, he no doubt sees some sketchy play from his blue line corps and perhaps his attention may be shifting from looking to trade for some scoring to shoring up his defense.

He has been quoted recently that he likes this team the way it is currently constructed and that when they are playing the right way, the Knights are a very good hockey team. But the reality is Vegas has not been on the right side of things lately. They were on Feb. 16 when they dominated Nashville, 5-1. They played O.K. in losing to Boston in a shootout last Wednesday, 3-2.

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Hurricanes Breathe Life Into Stale Postgame

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

It was Feb. 1. The Golden Knights had just dropped a 5-2 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes. And as the Knights trudged off the ice at the PNC Center in Raleigh, it was turn-the-page time and focus on the next game against the Florida Panthers the following night.

The Hurricanes, however, weren’t quite done.

They remained on the ice and celebrated the win. First, it started with a team clap of the hands that looked like something Iceland’s national soccer team does. But it morphed into a quick game of childhood favorite “Duck, Duck, Goose.”

They call it the “Storm Surge” in Carolina. Don Cherry calls it something else. Cherry, who is 85 and has had a bully pulpit for decades on the CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada telecast, ripped the ‘Canes.

These guys to me are jerks. And I’ll tell you one thing, they better not do this in the playoffs.. . . This is a joke.

Young men expressing themselves for joy of winning. You don’t do this thing in professional hockey. What are these guys? Jerks or something?

I know what I’m talking about. You never do anything like that. They’re still not drawing. They’re a bunch of jerks as far as I’m concerned. Imagine Justin Williams doing stuff like that. -Don Cherry

The team obviously has a different point of view. Williams, the team’s captain, plays a major role in all this.

And the coach doesn’t have a problem with the postgame celebrations.

We want to have fun when we win. The game should be fun. That’s why we’re doing it. I want the players to enjoy winning and the fans to enjoy being here. -Rod Brind’Amour, Hurricanes coach

My first thought when I saw the initial celebration earlier this year was, “What the hell is that?” But as the cellys became more creative and elaborate, I started to enjoy them. I hadn’t played Duck, Duck, Goose since I was a tyke back in the late 1950s. So I have to admit seeing a bunch of grown men doing it was pretty funny.

And the others are funny too. The fans offer suggestions, the players take them under advisement and then figure out what they’ll ultimately do.

Understand these “Storm Surges” take place after victories at home, long after the opposing team has left the ice. So the night of Feb. 1, all of the Golden Knights were in their locker room when the frivolity began, so none of them saw it.

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Carp: Priority Number One At Deadline For Golden Knights Should Be Mark Stone

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

The NHL trade deadline is eight days away. So now is as good a time as any to look at what the Golden Knights might do. Or should do.

Don’t be fooled by Saturday’s offensive outburst in their 5-1 win over Nashville which snapped the five-game home losing streak. They need more scoring.

So who should they go after?

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There’s Artemi Panarin of Columbus who might be available. Philadelphia may be willing to part with Wayne Simmonds. The Rangers could be talked into trading Mats Zuccarello. Ditto for the Devils moving Marcus Johansson, a move Ken endorses (more on this by him tomorrow).

To me, the Knights should have one target at the top of their list — Ottawa’s Mark Stone — assuming, of course, that he’s still on the market. The Senators reportedly are trying to get him to agree to a contract extension and remain in Ottawa.

But let’s play along and go on the basis he is available.

Why identify Stone as Vegas’ primary trade target?

Let’s start with the fact the guy is really good on a really bad team. Ottawa is the NHL’s worst team and is a hot mess, both on, but especially off the ice. A change of scene going to a winning organization would no doubt help Stone.

He’s only 26 years old. He’s on his way to having the best season of his career with 27 goals, 32 assists and 59 points through 58 games. His previous best was in 2015 when he had 26 goals, 38 assists and 64 points with the Senators. He would fit in nicely with Vegas’ up-tempo style of play and skating with better players would likely bolster his productivity.

The downside? Stone is making $7.35 million and will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. If you’re GMGM, are you positive you can sign Stone to an extension? McPhee is not a big rental guy so you would have to think that if he’s going to deal for Stone, it’s with the understanding he can sign him long-term. Stone is represented by Craig Oster of Newport Sports.

Of course, Vegas isn’t the only team interested in acquiring Stone’s services. Winnipeg, which played and lost to Ottawa in overtime Saturday, is said to be interested. Calgary may also be in the mix to make a run at him.

Assuming Stone was paid the same money to remain in Vegas, he would become the team’s highest paid player. Most likely, he would command a bump up in salary. But no matter what he would make as a Golden Knight, it would be substantially more than what he’s currently putting in the bank in Ottawa.

Remember, there’s no state income tax in Nevada while Stone is paying high national and provincial taxes playing in Canada. That money saved goes into his pocket, not the government’s.

And the quality of life here in Southern Nevada should appeal to him. A chat with any of the Knights’ players will convince him of that.

And then there’s the Kelly McCrimmon connection. McCrimmon coached Stone in juniors with the Brandon Wheat Kings and whether or not McCrimmon remains as Vegas’ assistant GM long-term shouldn’t impact Stone’s comfort level.

I also think Stone would enjoy playing for Gerard Gallant, who is a players’ coach.

Could the Knights afford Stone long-term?

As things stand for next year, Fleury and Max Pacioretty will command the highest salary at $7 million each. Paul Stastny will make $6.5 million. So that’s $20.5 million tied up in three players for 2019-20.

The Knights also have William Karlsson to deal with. Wild Bill is making $5.25 million this season and will be a Restricted Free Agent at season’s end. He’s not putting up the record numbers of a year ago but he is having a solid season. It will be interesting to see how McPhee plays this one.

But there’s room with the team’s salary cap — approximately $16 million — to take on someone with Stone’s salary structure. So money isn’t going to be a major issue.

What would it take to get him?

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Golden Knights Find Themselves Lost At Home

**Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

You can feel the anger. You can see the frustration. You can understand the struggle in searching for answers.

For the Golden Knights, home is not a happy place right now. And all the jumping up and down from the fans, all the imploring from the in-game hosts to get loud, all the music everyone has grown accustomed to isn’t going to snap this team out of its current funk in T-Mobile Arena.

This is on the players, plain and simple.

Started out that way, but not so much recently. (Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Knights have lost four in a row at home. They have begun the eight-games-in-nine stretch at T-Mobile with two losses. The notion of taking the Pacific Division title grows dimmer with each defeat as San Jose has taken control of the top spot.

And it’s not any one thing that has been the cause, though if you are willing to look at it objectively, you’ll see the team hasn’t played a full 60 minutes in any of the recent home losses.

Certainly not Tuesday in falling 5-2 vs Arizona.

Coach Gerard Gallant may not be a math wizard, but he knows percentages. And here’s his take from what was a very brief, angry and contentious postgame news conference Tuesday:

It was 2-2 game and all of a sudden, we try and get cute and start making drop passes through the slot and turn over and then they go the other way on odd man rushes so you know, we get 40-something shots.

I didn’t like the way we played. I thought we played about 10 minutes of real good hockey tonight. There was no passion in our game. There was no aggressive forecheck in our game. We played a soft game, and in my opinion, we gave them three goals from our mistakes.

Not from what they deserved. And they played well, you know I give them credit but when you are going to give them three goals like that you are not going to win many games. -Gallant

So it begs several questions. Why play cutesy with the puck? Why not be more direct? Why not come out with some jump? Was it a lack of respect for the Coyotes, who have played the role of doormat to the Knights in the past? Was it trying to play to the crowd?

I’m not sure the players have the answers. But it’s up to them to fix it.

We didn’t battle hard enough. We were in a good spot going into the third, with 2-2. We just didn’t battle, we weren’t good enough.

Definitely no reason for that group to be losing a game like that. We have the work ethic, all the skills that we need to be successful and we just don’t make it happen. We need to be willing to want it more than the other ones. -Jonathan Marchessault

Nate Schmidt, who also tends to tell it like it is, said there are multiple issues plaguing the Knights right now.

(It’s) more of the same. Not showing up at home, not finishing games, just a lot of things from our game that are just not characteristic of our group.

Right now, it’s tough. It’s tough when you have good parts of the game, you know, you push back to tie the game and just think that you’re going to be easy for the third period. I mean they’re pushing too.

It’s this time of year. It’s hard to win this time of year. And I know we just don’t have it for the whole game and that’s just not going to be enough to win. -Schmidt

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A Weird Night… And A Blown Opportunity

**Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

I think I can sum up Saturday’s affair at T-Mobile Arena in one word:

Strange.

The Golden Knights were finally back home after an extended All-Star Break and a four-game road trip. The building was energized. The opponent was good. It had all the trappings for a memorable evening.

It was memorable all right — if you’re into bizarre happenings.

Fluke goals. Crazy caroms. Shuffled lines. It all made for a memorable night for the wrong reasons as the Golden Knights squandered leads of 2-1 and 3-2 in falling to the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-3, and left 18,301 people leaving the T shaking their heads in bewilderment and perhaps a tinge of anger.

But what you should remember from Saturday are the two points the Knights squandered. And if they should come up short in their quest to win the Pacific Division, you’ll think back to the game on Feb. 9 as one of the reasons why, just as you’ll remember the Feb. 5 win at Tampa as one of the big reasons why if they are successful in capturing the Pacific.

Vegas has been almost unbeatable at home since it joined the NHL two years ago. But lately, home has not been where the points are. The Knights have now dropped three straight at T-Mobile and last won in their own building back on Jan. 19. Their record at home this year? A far-from-stellar 16-7-3.

What’s troubling is that they had the lead in each of those three games they ultimately wound up losing. The inability to maintain or build a lead at home is becoming increasingly alarming.

With a team like that, you’ve got to play a little more methodical. That’s what’s tough. You have a lead in the third period and you can’t close them out but I thought we gave them the game. It sucks because you’re pretty happy about being up 3-2 and even though you haven’t played a great game, but you’re still up. You have a chance to close it out at home … arrragh! -Nate Schmidt

The weird goals sometimes happen over the course of a season. It wasn’t Marc-Andre Fleury’s best performance either and he was the first to admit it. Maybe the guy is human after all.

Yet the Knights still should have come out of Saturday with points. Unfortunately, Columbus’ best player, Cam Atkinson, delivered when his team needed him the most and scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner with 2:39 to play and Paul Stastny sitting in the penalty box for slashing after Atkinson had put a great move on Brayden McNabb to get free in the Vegas zone.

And had the Knights prevailed, we would be talking about Gerard Gallant’s brilliant strategy to shorten his bench after a dismal second period which saw his team manufacture just three, count ‘em, three shots on goal.

Gallant essentially went with three lines in the third period, sprinkling in Cody Eakin with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Will Carrier and Ryan Reaves while electing to sit Tomas Nosek and Valentin Zykov. And remember, Brandon Pirri wasn’t an option for Gallant as he was a healthy scratch.

The moves looked like they were going to pay off as Eakin put the Knights ahead 3-2 9:21 into the third.

It wasn’t a problem for me. You go out there, you talk with whoever (Gallant) puts you with and you just go play. -Cody Eakin

Why did Gallant do it? After that dismal second period, he couldn’t afford an encore in the third.

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