Golden Knights’ goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury scooped the puck out of the back of his own net during the third period of Friday night’s 5-4 loss to the Senators, and angrily winged it into the end boards in frustration.
The goal wasn't Fleury’s fault. Alexandre Burrows tipped a rocket slap shot by All-Star defenseman Erik Karlsson just in front of Fleury, and it ricocheted into the net. But nevertheless, Fleury was frustrated.
“You never want to lose,” Fleury said. “It sucks, but it’s part of the game and we are going to learn from it.”
It was the Golden Knights’ third-straight loss, and it left nearly everyone on the team frustrated, including coach Gerard Gallant.
“I’m not happy with the way we’ve played the last two or three games at home to be honest with you,” Gallant said. “We looked bad tonight. Not everybody but the majority of them.”
The lone bright spot for Vegas was its first line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith. The group scored in the opening minute when Marchessault fed Smith a pass right in front of the goal and he lifted it over Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson’s shoulder.
In the third period, Marchessault set up Karlsson on his 35th goal of the season. It was Marchessault’s 43rd assist of the season, giving him the lead on the Golden Knights. The goal brought Vegas within one goal, and Ryan Carpenter tied the game minutes later, but the Senators scored late to spoil the comeback attempt.
“I think we got outcompeted tonight,” Gallant said. “We didn’t work hard enough and we had one line going. You’re not going to win many games like that.”
Despite giving up five goals, Fleury actually played well in net for the Golden Knights including an impressive pair of glove saves on shots by Mike Hoffman. Vegas constantly committed turnovers in its own zone giving Fleury no chance.
“Every time our defensemen have the puck everybody is swinging away,” Marchessault said. “We need to give option to our defensemen and help them out. At the end of the day it’s easy to blame the defenseman that turns the puck over on the wall but if the forward isn’t there and he doesn’t have option then that’s our fault.”
Gallant said it wasn’t the turnovers, or any other single factor, that led to the loss. He insisted that the effort and compete level that has carried the Golden Knights to this point was missing.
“We always talk about skill and talent, but if you don’t work hard and compete hard like we have all season long, then it’s not going to work and tonight we didn’t show up,” Gallant said.
Despite playing well himself, Marchessault agreed with Gallant’s assessment, adding, “We are a lazy team right now and we (aren’t) playing well.”
Losers of three straight, the Golden Knights now face a five-game road trip that will cover nearly 4,000 miles. It starts in New Jersey with a matchup with the Devils on Sunday, and goes through Columbus, Detroit, Buffalo and Philadelphia.
Gallant said he’s glad to be on the road to help refocus the team, and while he doesn’t anticipate verbally berating the team for it’s poor showings, the silence may be worse.
“I hope I don’t have to say anything before the next game,” he said. “I hope our guys have enough character and enough pride.”