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Avalanche hand Knights second loss of season

The Golden Knights had an early-season opportunity to deliver a message to the rest of the Western Conference that they are once again ready to contend.

Instead, they found out the defending champions are still a force to be reckoned with, even at less than full strength.

Colorado came into T-Mobile Arena missing several key players and on their third game in four nights, but left with a 3-2 victory in front of an announced crowd of 18,207.

It was the second loss of the season for the Knights (4-2-0), and on both occasions, they surrendered two power-play goals.

While Calgary needed six opportunities to score twice Tuesday, the Avalanche (3-2-1) converted each of their two opportunities Saturday night.

“The two in Calgary I thought were fatigue. They eventually just got to us,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Tonight, it’s two good shooters off the pipe and in. Two good shots. It’s going to be hard to be critical of those. I’m certainly not going to be critical of the goaltender on those.”

Both power-play goals looked similar, as Nathan MacKinnon and Evan Rodrigues found space at the top of the circle to Logan Thompson’s right and ripped shots just inside the far post.

“You can’t just give them one-timers from the top of the circle with the whole net to shoot at and expect your goalie to stop those,” Knights forward Mark Stone said.

It was the Rodrigues goal that gave the Avalanche the lead for good early in the second period.

The Knights, who had been thoroughly outplayed to that point, started to settle into their game after that. Several good chances were turned away, and then two power plays proved unfruitful.

The Knights finished 1-for-4 on the man-advantage.

“That probably ends up being the difference,” Cassidy said. “You’d like to match on your power play. That’s where I think we could have been better. I thought our power play did good things the first two (opportunities) and then maybe got a little impatient on the (two) in the third period.”

Valeri Nichushkin weaved his way through the Knights’ defense and beat Thompson on an outstanding individual effort with 11:50 remaining in the third.

Chandler Stephenson answered two minutes later to cut the lead in half, but the Knights couldn’t find the equalizer.

William Karlsson finessed a shot off the post with 6:15 to play, and then there was a mad scramble in front of the Avalanche net with 2:31 remaining.

“I thought we actually played pretty well from early in the second period to the end of the game,” Stone said. “We were pushing, getting pucks behind them and making them play out of their end. We were drawing some penalties. We had some quality chances, we just have to find a way to even that game and get it tied there to get something out of it.”

Colorado appeared to be in complete control when Stone pulled off a highlight-reel assist for his first of two on the night.

On the Knights’ first power play, Jack Eichel tried to center the puck to Stone in front of the net only to have it pop up high in the air off a Colorado stick. Stone tracked it and caught it before dropping it at his skates and sending a no-look backhand pass to Jonathan Marchessault, who finished to tie the game at 1.

“I don’t think many guys knew where the puck was,” Stone said. “I think it was just a fortunate bounce really, and when you get those, you have to take advantage of them.”

Before the power play late in the first period, the Knights had nearly a 15-minute stretch without a shot on goal.

Eichel also had two assists.

The Avalanche entered the game with a 46.7 percent rate on the power play, far and away the best in the league.

Contact Adam Hill at [email protected] Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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