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March 18, 2019

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Streak over: Golden Knights change lineup in snapping home losing skid

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Steve Marcus

Vegas Golden Knights left wing Max Pacioretty (67) celebrates with Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore (27) after scoring against the Nashville Predators in the first period at T-Mobile Arena Saturday, Jan. 16, 2019.

One way to break a losing streak is to try something different — anything, and everything, to get back into the win column.

For the Golden Knights on Saturday, that something was rearranging the lineup. It seemed to worked, at least for one game.

Golden Knights Defeat Predators, 5-1

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Malcolm Subban (30) stretches before the start of the second period against the Nashville Predators at T-Mobile Arena Saturday, Jan. 16, 2019. Launch slideshow »

The Golden Knights jumbled their lineup, particularly their defensive pairings, and out came a winning combination to snap a franchise-worst five-game home losing streak with a 5-1 victory over the Nashville Predators at T-Mobile Arena.

“When we’re on that streak and obviously things aren’t going well they’re trying to shake anything up to see if something works,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “I thought tonight we flowed really well and we played a good team game.”

Over the last two games, the Golden Knights had a 10-34 disadvantage in Corsi, a measure of shot attempts at 5-on-5, when Theodore was on the ice. That’s when he was paired with right-hander Deryk Engelland and was playing on the left side, his natural positioning.

Theodore shifted to right while paired with fellow lefty Brayden McNabb on Saturday, and turned in one of his best possession games of the season. Theodore and McNabb helped the Knights to a 25-11 Corsi advantage when on the ice at 5-on-5, best among team defensive pairs, and were 19.4 percent better than the Golden Knights’ average. They had a plus-3 rating and Theodore scored his ninth goal of the season.

“It’s a difference but it’s not too big of a deal,” Theodore said. “I thought we played well all right and I thought we really gelled.”

He said it was his first game in the NHL playing on the right side, though he played there in the minors and often in juniors. Coach Gerard Gallant said he wasn’t worried about Theodore playing on the right side and hinted it may not be a one-off.

“We changed the pairs up a little bit tonight,” Gallant said. “We weren’t happy with the last four or five games and we thought it went real well tonight. We’ll see going forward, but I liked it a lot.”

The defense wasn’t the only unit with a new jump in their step. Max Pacioretty scored twice playing with new linemates Oscar Lindberg and Cody Eakin, and Lindberg scored.

Lindberg in particular was impressive, and continued the chemistry he’s displayed with Eakin over the last few games. He had a season-high five shots and his 67.9 Corsi percentage was second-best among team forwards.

“We kind of said to go out there, play a hard, physical game and it worked out well,” Lindberg said.

The most demonstrable shift was the man in the net. Malcolm Subban started and was terrific, stopping 29 of 30 shots in his first action since Jan. 6. In his last four games since Dec. 17, Subban has a 1.26 goals-against average and a .962 save percentage.

“You don’t want to get too high on the wins or too low on the losses. You want to keep it even-keeled and get ready for the next game,” Subban said. “The team played unbelievable in front of me tonight. There wasn’t too many hard chances. They made it easy for me.”

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