NEWARK, N.J. — The Golden Knights were last in the NHL on the power play after their first 15 games.
That seems like a distant memory now.
The Knights have produced at least one power-play goal in 13 of the 18 games since they bottomed out last month and enter Friday’s game against New Jersey at Prudential Center brimming with confidence.
“It’s a credit to the guys that are on it. They’ve kind of taken a hold of it,” said assistant coach Ryan Craig, who runs the units. “I think they’ve really worked hard on it. Our compete level’s gone up.
“It’s about trying to outwork the penalty kill, and we’ve done a good job establishing our shot and then recovering pucks, and we scored a big one on it (Wednesday) night.”
Following an 0-for-3 showing with the man advantage in a loss at Toronto on Nov. 7, the Knights plummeted to the bottom of the league rankings at 11.8 percent (6-for-51).
Since then, they’ve converted at a 27.6 percent clip (16-for-58), good for seventh in the league.
And those numbers could be even better considering the Knights scored twice against Dallas on Sunday less than 10 seconds after a power play expired.
Entering Thursday’s games, the Knights ranked 16th overall with the man advantage at 20.2 percent.
“It’s still about playing hockey and making plays and taking what’s there,” Craig said. “I don’t think we’ve basically scored the prettiest power-play goals, but we’re finding ways to score on the power play and we’re finding ways to score timely power-play goals.”
The Knights changed their personnel on the top unit after the Toronto game, moving Max Pacioretty into the middle of the 1-3-1 setup and shifting Jonathan Marchessault from the left side to the right.
Defenseman Colin Miller also was inserted at the point in place of Shea Theodore, who went to the No. 2 unit.
William Karlsson also dropped to the second unit, enabling him to patrol the left side.
“We have two good units that have both contributed,” Craig said. “I think there’s inner competition within our group between the two units. And in saying that, both have come up big on certain nights. (Karlsson’s) done a good job with his unit, and the other unit, all those guys have contributed.”
The Knights are 14-5-0 when they score a power-play goal and have earned 24 points since Nov. 8, tied with Buffalo for the most in the league over that span, though the Sabres played two fewer games.
The No. 1 unit with Marchessault, Miller, Pacioretty, Reilly Smith and Alex Tuch has accounted for the past three power-play goals — two by Smith — and nine of the past 12.
Marchessault scored on a laser from the right faceoff dot 34 seconds into the Knights’ 3-2 victory over the Islanders on Wednesday at Barclays Center. He scored from almost the identical spot on the ice against Edmonton on Nov. 18.
“He’s done a good job there on his strong side,” Craig said. “We think he can attack the net downhill there a little bit. It puts him on his forehand, the puck on his forehand with his toes pointed toward the net. He did a good job working to the dot (Wednesday) night.”
Who: Golden Knights at Devils
When: 4 p.m. Friday
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey
TV: AT&T SportsNet (Cox 313/1313, DirecTV 684, CenturyLink 760/1760, U-verse 757/1757, Dish 414/5414)
Radio: KRLV (98.9 FM, 1340 AM)
Line: Golden Knights -130; total 6
1. Take a break. The Golden Knights originally were scheduled to practice Thursday at Prudential Center in New Jersey but decided to have an optional skate instead and save their legs. “Rest is something that … you can’t get it back if you don’t use it. We tried to use it today,” assistant coach Ryan Craig said.
2. Puck possession. The Knights’ first line earned plenty of accolades for shutting down Dallas’ top line during 5-on-5 play Sunday. They did a number on the Islanders, too, with William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith each recording a Corsi for percentage over 70 percent at 5-on-5.
3. “We’re the Devils.” New Jersey made a dramatic turnaround last season, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2012 when it lost to Los Angeles in the Stanley Cup Final. But the Devils (10-13-6) are last in the Eastern Conference and open their second back-to-back of the week Friday vs. the Knights.
David Schoen Review-Journal