The Golden Knights’ penalty kill units had a sensational night Friday and were largely responsible for a series-tying 5-3 victory at San Jose.
But Knights coach Gerard Gallant hopes he doesn’t have to use them nearly as much when the series shifts to T-Mobile Arena for Game 3 Sunday.
“Going forward, if you take nine penalties in a game, you’re not going to have too good of an outcome,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “I think we have to watch that.”
The Knights accumulated 22 penalty minutes after racking up 34 in Game 1, a number that was inflated by two late-game misconducts issued to Tomas Nosek and Ryan Reaves.
It’s the first time in franchise history that the Knights have been issued more than 44 minutes in any two-game stretch. The previous high this season was 29 minutes March 29 and 30 against the Minnesota Wild and the Sharks.
Deryk Engelland and Brayden McNabb each was on the ice for more than nine minutes in short-handed situations Friday, as the Sharks spent more than 13 minutes with at least a man-advantage.
But all that time in the penalty box didn’t hurt the Knights. They killed off seven of eight power plays and also scored two short-handed goals, including one in the third period by William Karlsson on a breakaway that gave them a 5-3 lead.
“We can’t go into the game expecting to kill penalties to get us going,” Nosek said. “That’s not a thing. We have to stay out of the box. It’s a good thing for sure to kill them off, and we scored the two short-handed goals last night. That was perfect. But that’s not a thing.”
Gallant declined comment on how the team can cut down on the penalties and implied that he didn’t agree with all the calls.
San Jose has totaled 34 penalty minutes, but the Sharks have 13 power plays to seven for the Knights in the series.
“It’s talked about, for sure,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said of when games are being called tighter. “You have to make sure you’re very disciplined with what you do, especially with your stick and making sure you keep it away from guys’ hands. This time of year, they’re always looking to kind of make things even up. You have a string of penalty kills, there’s probably a good chance you’re going to get a power play in the foreseeable future.”
But don’t blame the officials, forward Jonathan Marchessault said.
“It’s definitely on us,” he said. “I think we need to just stay a little more composed during the game and not get involved in the penalties and be smart. I think part of it is the emotion of the playoffs. But I think we’re being undisciplined a bit. There’s times we could just be a little smarter. You can just take one extra stride and catch a guy, and that puts us in a better spot.”
What the Knights don’t want to do is focus too much on avoiding penalties at the expense of the aggression and intensity that helped them bounce back from a lackluster series opener to seize home-ice advantage.
It’s much easier said than done in a series so fraught with animosity and physical play.
Schmidt said the key is to make sure to balance your emotions between shifts.
“It’s very hard to do,” he said. “You try and go back to the bench and try to take a deep breath and relax because you’re so fired up to do something and make a play, the goal being to be as relaxed and calm as you can when the game gets craziest. Otherwise, you let those things get to you, and it’s not what you need.
“We’ve just got to be a lot better at staying out of the box. You give them that many chances and they’re going to kill you in a series.”