Immersed in their second losing streak of at least four games this season, the Vegas Golden Knights will have a new man behind the bench when they continue their eight-game road stretch on Thursday night at Ottawa.
Peter DeBoer, fired earlier this season by Pacific Division-rival San Jose, which had rallied from a 3-1 deficit to eliminate the Golden Knights in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs last season, takes over for Gerard Gallant, who was fired along with assistant Mike Kelly on Wednesday morning.
The move came hours after Vegas had fallen from first place in the Pacific Division to out of the playoffs in a very tight Western Conference race in the span of a week. Ironically, Gallant garnered the head-coaching spot for the Pacific Division in next week’s NHL All-Star Game when the Golden Knights briefly took over the top spot.
“In order for our team to reach its full potential, we determined a coaching change was necessary,” Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon said in a prepared statement. “In Peter DeBoer, we have a proven, experienced head coach who we believe can help us achieve our ultimate goal.”
“This is all in the last 24 hours that any of this has gone on,” McCrimmon added during a brief press conference before the team’s practice on Wednesday. “So, it came together very quickly.”
The move comes less than two years after Gallant had won the Jack Adams Award after leading the expansion Golden Knights through a storybook season that concluded with a loss to the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Final.
Still, Vegas looked lethargic at times during the current four-game losing streak. The first three losses had come at home, including a head-scratching 5-2 defeat to the Los Angeles Kings during which they fell behind 4-0 in the first period. The team was booed off the ice following that period and also after Saturday night’s 3-0 loss to Columbus in their homestand finale.
After Tuesday night’s setback at Buffalo, forward Mark Stone summed up his team’s frustration.
“It’s tough, especially when you’re losing to teams you know you’re better than,” Stone said. “We just have to find ways to put the puck in the net. We’ve kind of gone stale the last bunch of games.”
“It’s frustrating,” added goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. “I think we all believe we’re a better team than that.”
Ottawa comes in with an eight-game losing streak (0-4-4), its longest of the season, after losing at home to the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday. The Senators jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Chris Tierney and Connor Brown but Chicago, behind a pair of goals by Dominik Kubalik, rallied to tie it and then won it 42 seconds into overtime on a goal by Jonathan Toews.
“I don’t think we worked hard enough,” Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said. “It’s simple. I think they just outworked us for the last two periods.”
“We come out with a game plan and we execute it in the first period, and we seem to slowly get away from it,” Brown told NHL.com. “So, it’s about putting a full 60 (minutes) together. We’re learning in here.”
This is the second meeting between the two teams. Vegas won the first one 3-2 on Oct. 17 in Las Vegas on Jonathan Marchessault’s third-round shootout goal.
–Field Level Media