LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Golden Knights' latest loss was an exception to the recent play by Vegas and its multiple goalies.
Until then, the Knights kept finding ways to win, receiving more than adequate play from whoever filled in as the goaltender of the night.
Coach Bruce Cassidy said Wednesday he hoped the 7-4 loss to the Edmonton Oilers the previous night and all-around sloppy play was a “one-off,” and was encouraged by his players' ability to adverse situations all season.
The Knights are the only team to have five goalies record multiple victories this season. Vegas also made NHL history when it became the first team ever to win four consecutive games with four different goalies last week.
“I think at the end of the day they’re not concerned about who the starter is that night,” Cassidy said of his players. “They’re ready to go. I think that’s why we’ve kept on winning no matter who's been in nets. Now credit the guys in nets for giving us a chance to win.”
Even with the loss to the Oilers, the Knights entered Wednesday leading the Western Conference with 98 points and could clinch a playoff spot Thursday at San Jose. The race, however, is tight in the Pacific Division with Los Angeles at 96 points and Edmonton at 95.
Cassidy brought over his defensive system from Boston to take pressure off the goalies. He spent six years there, and last season goalie Linus Ullmark began to emerge into a player who now leads the league with 1.90 goals-against average.
Under Cassidy's system, opponents often are forced to shoot from angles, creating easier save opportunities for the goalies.
“It might make it feel like the other team is kind of pounding you, but we’re not being asked to make any back-door plays or (face) a lot of odd-man rushes because we’re so patient and our guys are kind of clogging up the middle of the ice,” goalie Laurent Brossoit said.
Brossoit and recent acquisition Jonathan Quick are the Knights' healthy goalies at the moment.
Brossoit underwent offseason hip surgery and then, after clearing waivers, spent most of the season in the AHL. He was promoted in February and soon after missed another 13 games because of injury. But Brossoit is 2-0-2 and leads the team with a 2.42 GAA and a .924 save percentage.
Quick came over from Columbus after being traded by Los Angeles, where he won two Stanley Cups and became a fan favorite. But he had a 3.50 GAA and .876 saves percentage before the Kings parted ways. His numbers with the Knights are similar, though Quick is 5-2 and has flashed moments of his old form.
Cassidy has only eight games left to figure out his goaltender situation before the playoffs, and all-star rookie Logan Thompson could be added to the mix if he returns from a lower-body injury. He was the Knights' No. 1 goalie before going down Feb. 9.
“We've talked about it internally,” Cassidy said. “I think you're going to see both goaltenders (Brossoit and Quick) is the easiest way I can put it. It's not about revealing some secret, it's that we don't get that far ahead of ourselves, especially the wild card in (Thompson) and what he's going to do.”
The Knights also have used Adin Hill and Jiri Patera in net. Hill is out with a lower-body injury and Patera is the goalie for the AHL affiliate in Henderson. Both excelled when given the opportunity, and as the club's sixth-round pick in 2017, Patera could be the goalie of the future.
Robin Lehner was supposed to be the goalie of the present, but Vegas announced in August he would have hip surgery, forcing the team right away to adjust in net.
The Knights have been doing it every since then.
“We're not going to change how we play regardless of who's in the net," defenceman Alex Pietrangelo said. "We've had a lot of success with what we're doing.”
THEODORE DAY TO DAY
Defenceman Shea Theodore, who had 41 points in 54 games, will miss at least Thursday's game at San Jose because of an undisclosed injury. Ben Hutton will replace him, and the Knights called up defenceman Brayden Pachal from Henderson. ___
Mark Anderson, The Associated Press