Golden Knights’ Robin Lehner discusses return, quitting Twitter

Vegas Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner stretches across the goal line as the puck goes wide o ...

Goaltender Robin Lehner knows there were plenty of opinions about the Golden Knights’ own goal in Sunday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Vancouver Canucks.

The Knights led 2-1 in the third period when the puck bounced toward Lehner after an offensive-zone faceoff between centers William Karlsson and Bo Horvat. Defenseman Alec Martinez deflected it between the edge of the faceoff circle and the start of the crease. Instead of sending it to the corner, he pushed it between Lehner’s pad before the goaltender had a chance to react.

“It’s just an unlucky touch that goes five-hole, scores,” Lehner said. “There’s nothing more to it. It wasn’t like I was staring at something fun in the stands, saw a hamburger or something.”

What was more important than how the play happened is that it took that kind of fluke bounce for the Canucks to get a second goal in a game that meant so much for their playoff hopes. Lehner was strong in his first start since suffering a lower-body injury.

“I’m close (to full strength), but this time of year I need to be better than my 100 percent,” he said. “It’s time to raise the bar. All of us. We need to win, and there’s no other option.”

Lehner admitted his recent injuries have been frustrating.

He missed five games in February with an upper-body injury. Then, after four March starts, he suffered a lower-body injury and missed 12 games.

Even his recovery didn’t go smoothly. He left practice March 29 after being struck by a one-timer from center Jack Eichel. The mental health advocate also deleted his Twitter account because, Lehner said, “it’s not been an easy climate for me out there” and “sometimes enough’s enough.”

Luckily for the Knights, goaltender Logan Thompson filled in capably when Lehner was out. The rookie is 7-4 with a .921 save percentage and 2.55 goals-against average. That allowed the Knights to be patient with Lehner, even though they are battling for a playoff spot.

“People in (City National Arena) know I try to rush too much sometimes,” Lehner said. “I want to come back. I don’t want to be out. … Logan’s come in and done a good job.”

The Knights now have Lehner and Thompson for their final 11 games and need good performances from both to make the playoffs.

Lehner made 26 saves against the Canucks but saw room for improvement. As one of the NHL’s largest goalies, he said he gets too aggressive challenging shots when coming back from injury. He’s at his best when he plays deeper in his crease, reads plays and trusts his size to help him make stops.

“The race to the finish line, a big part of this is going to be who gets the best goaltending down the stretch,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “We’re set up. Both guys are in a good place. Now it’s just a matter of getting out there and getting the job done.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.