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November 12, 2018

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Erik Haula stretchered off the ice as Golden Knights drop game in Toronto

Vegas has now gone 0-5 against Stanley Cup favorites this season

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Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press via AP

A trainer attends to Vegas Golden Knights center Erik Haula, who had taken a hit along the boards during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Toronto.

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee spent the offseason rebuilding his team’s second line.

To no fault of his own, he may never get to see the full fruits of his labor this year. The unit has been perpetually injured through the first month of the season, and took a devastating turn for the worse in a 3-1 loss against the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday night.

Paramedics at Scotiabank Arena stretchered Erik Haula off the ice early in the third period after the center’s right knee bent awkwardly following a hit from Patrick Marleau against the boards. Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant had no immediate update on Haula after the game.

“Didn’t look good on the ice,” Gallant said on AT&T Sports Net. “But I haven’t talked to the trainers or doctors yet.”

Haula immediately reached for his leg, spit out his mouthpiece and screamed in pain as he took the spill. A delay of several minutes ensued as medical officials tended to Haula.

The sixth-year NHL veteran was the only one of four players projected to contribute on the second line in the preseason who hadn’t missed any time.

Prized offseason acquisition Paul Stastny went down in the third game of the year with a lower-body injury and may remain out for two more months. Alex Tuch missed the first three weeks of the season with his own lower-body injury, and Max Pacioretty returned against the Maple Leafs after missing the last four games.

Tuesday’s game was only the third time this season that Pacioretty, Tuch and Haula played together.

“You never want to see something like that happen, especially ‘Hauls,’ who’s been great for us all season,” defenseman Brad Hunt said. “We’ve got to try to regroup.”

Vegas continues to dig a bigger hole for itself, however, as the loss in Toronto dropped it to 6-8-1 on the season including 2-6 on the road. The Golden Knights have particularly struggled against the class of the NHL.

They’ve now played all four favorites to win the Stanley Cup by local betting odds, and five of the top seven. Vegas has lost to all of them in regulation.

Four of the five teams — Toronto, Nashville, Pittsburgh and Washington — beat Vegas by multiple scores with a 3-2 home loss to Tampa Bay the only exception. The defeat to Toronto closely mirrored the Tampa Bay loss.

The Golden Knights dropped into an early deficit — allowing Connor Brown and Mitch Marner to score goals in the opening 21 minutes of game time — and could never fully rally back despite playing well the rest of the game.

Vegas outshot Toronto 32-17, with much of the edge coming in the final two periods, but its only goal came when Cody Eakin tipped in a slap shot from Shea Theodore at 11:22 of the second period. The goalposts continue to be a nemesis, as the pipe turned away shots from Theodore, Hunt and Ryan Reaves.

“I thought we played a real strong game and sometimes you don’t win those games,” Gallant said.

“I thought we deserved a better fate, but that happens.”

Gallant praised the Golden Knights’ resolve for the final 15 minutes after Haula went down. There was a lot of silence and bowed heads on the bench as the scene made it appear that Haula’s injury was the most significant out of the multitude Vegas has suffered this season.

The Golden Knights vowed to persevere postgame, even as at least one player admitted to feeling frustration from the continued trend of injuries piling up.

“It would be nice to have a full team at some point,” goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said, “but every team goes through it, I guess … It feels like we’ve still got to find ways. We’ve got good enough depth on our team.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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