The Vegas Golden Knights took on the New York Islanders for the first time since Oct. 30, when the Knights lost 6-3 in the first game of the Max Lagace era. This game was better, but it ended in the same category — a regulation loss. The Knights lost their first season series in franchise history.
What did we learn from the first home regulation loss since Nov. 28?
1. Sometimes an opposing goaltender just gets hot
Jaroslav Halak made 38 saves on 39 shots. The only shot he didn't stop he had no chance on. That was a deflection by Erik Haula on the power play, and it went in between Halak's pads.
This was Halak's best start of the season, and it comes after three poor starts in his five games leading into this one. Halak has a .909 save percentage this season and has posted a save percentage in the .800s (or below) 13 times in 33 games. Halak's greatest seasons are firmly behind him.
But sometimes a goaltender just gets hot. Whether it was the Knights not converting on rebounds or passing not working out, Halak saw a lot of the puck and made a lot of saves because of it. That didn't help the Knights, and it led to a win for the Islanders. Sometimes a goaltender just has a really great game.
2. Defensive zone turnovers hurt
Colin Miller's defensive zone giveaway that led to Jordan Eberle's goal is exactly why plays like that can’t happen. If he doesn't give the puck away there, it's not a goal. It doesn't lead to a 2-0 deficit and the Knights may have still had a chance to win.
Of course, it's hard to entirely blame Miller. The Knights have had defensive zone giveaway problems all season. It seems like every defenseman has at some point given the puck up, leading to a goal.
That's a trend that has to end. If the Knights get more responsible in their own zone, they'll see fewer goals against. That could lead to easier victories in the future. It will also take away some losses that should have been wins.
3. The power play is getting better
The power play scored another goal in two chances after adding two against the Columbus Blue Jackets and two more against the Carolina Hurricanes. This is a marked improvement over the 1-for-32 run the Knights' power play was on before the game against Carolina.
This time, the goal was scored by Erik Haula's net-front presence and hand-eye coordination. David Perron absolutely destroying a shot from the point didn't hurt either. It was a laser that made contact with Haula and went into the net.
That's the kind of goal the Knights need more of in the future. With the improvements the power play has made over the last three games, the Knights shouldn't go on another 1-for-30 run anytime soon.
4. The Knights need better crease presence
The Knights had a few chances after Halak allowed rebounds. Unfortunately, none of those rebounds went in. There were also a few chances created by shots or passes that Halak didn't collect that were in the crease. None of those went in.
If the Knights were able to seal a goal on the crease, the game is changed. With the talent they have, the Knights should have gotten a goal from the highest-danger area. Especially from Alex Tuch, who has terrific size and a solid shot. He needs to be better on the doorstep.
The Knights need to get better at pushing the puck in the net, alongside getting deflections and great looking shots. Those ugly goals become important in the playoffs, and the Knights need a little bit more grease as a team.
5. Gerard Gallant trusts young players
Shea Theodore played the most minutes of any Golden Knight against the Islanders. He played 24 minutes, his third highest total of any game, the most he's played in a game that didn't go to overtime. All three over-24 minute sessions have come in his last 10 games. But he's just one of the young players that Gerard Gallant is learning to trust.
Brendan Leipsic is getting on the ice in key situations. Tuch continues to play a role on the top power play. William Carrier is trusted to drive possession on the Bellemare line. Miller and William Karlsson, both 25, joined Theodore in the over 20-minute club.
Gallant is showing that the future of the Golden Knights is bright, and is trusting the players who will be around for a long time to do their jobs. That could help the Knights not only in the present but in the future.