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Year 2, Game 54: Is it time to panic? Golden Knights lose 3-1 to Panthers

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That’s four losses in a row, and at some point, something’s got to give.

NHL: Nashville Predators at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Vegas Golden Knights lost their fourth straight game, a 3-1 road loss to the Florida Panthers, on Saturday. You probably knew that already.

It’s the first time in franchise history that Vegas has lost four straight. That is, if you’re not counting the four straight it lost in the Stanley Cup Final, which can easily be wiped from the memory bank if you so choose. The Golden Knights are 29-21-4. They’re still third in the Pacific.

Perhaps, it’s the old ‘taking their foot off the gas’ trick. Maybe the Golden Knights partied too hard in Cabo/Mexico/wherever they vacationed during the bye week.

But to sum up what’s going on with the Golden Knights, it comes down to the fact that they’re not playing good hockey right now. In a realistic world, the cliche should not be that simple. The argument of health being a factor can’t be used anymore — Reilly Smith is back, Colin Miller is healthy; the only notable skater left on injured reserve to this point is William Carrier. Who knows what’s going on with that?

Vegas’ offense has gone colder than the polar vortex. The Golden Knights scored seven goals against Pittsburgh in their 7-3 win on Jan. 19; the last time they knew what it felt like to win a game.

During their four-game losing streak, the Golden Knights have scored a total of six goals. They have allowed 14.

Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson have combined for one point.

The only players to score a goal are Max Pacioretty (three), Alex Tuch, and Shea Theodore.

Brandon Pirri has not scored in five games. Even with Smith being bumped down to the third line in favor of Valentin Zykov, Pirri did not get on the scoresheet Saturday.

Speaking of Zykov, the former AHL goal-scoring leader who was claimed off waivers from Edmonton on Dec. 29, he has five shots on goal and zero points in three games with Vegas. He had an even Corsi of 50 percent Saturday with 81 and 71, but was on the ice for Derick Brassard’s game-winning goal at 6:13 of the third period.

It’s hard to blame Marc-Andre Fleury; he’s allowed seven goals in his past three starts. But think of the goals he’s allowed — Minnesota beat Vegas on the backdoor three times; Nashville got a lucky bounce and and the most wide-open net Nick Bonino will ever see; Hoffman scored on an offensive zone turnover, and Alexsander Barkov scored 12 seconds after Vegas turned it over off the game’s opening draw, bouncing off each other like a set of bumper cars.

They’re not winning battles in front of Fleury. They’re allowing backbreaking goals that most teams wouldn’t be able to come back from. They’re not getting enough production from those who need to be producing.

Show this map to anyone who did not watch Saturday, and ask them who they think won.

Natural Stat Trick

Combine all of that, and you have a concerning four-game losing streak for a Vegas team that has, for all intents and purposes, lost serious ground in the Pacific Division and has to be fighting for the No. 2 at this point.

It’s not time to hit the panic button yet. The Golden Knights are still likely getting into the playoffs. There are still 28 games to play; one can think Vegas will go on another streak at some point and put some folks at ease. The trade deadline, though, is a little more than three weeks away. When I spoke with George McPhee last week regarding the deadline, he made it clear that the current makeup of the team is good and it’ll depend on the injury front should Vegas want to be active buyers.

Well, health isn’t the problem right now. This team can’t score outside of the 67-26-89 line. No matter if you’re hitting the panic button or not, that’s a problem. The defense has been questionable, at best.

The case is opened, and the panic button is in full view. It’s not time to press it yet, but these next three weeks are going to be of the utmost importance for the Golden Knights.

And on that note, Vegas is at Tampa Bay on Tuesday.