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Golden Knights take control despite lack of secondary scoring

Updated April 17, 2019 - 11:26 pm

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Paul Stastny views hockey through a unique lens, which often leads the veteran Golden Knights center to arrive at an insightful conclusion about a game.

His take on the Knights’ most recent victory is a timely example.

While goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury’s 15th career postseason shutout and left wing Max Pacioretty’s four-point performance in Game 4 stole the headlines, Stastny’s attention gravitated elsewhere immediately after the Knights’ 5-0 victory over San Jose.

“Most importantly tonight, what was big was (Jonathan Marchessault) got on the board, (Alex Tuch) got on the board, getting other guys,” Stastny said. “All of a sudden, they’re going to play with a lot more confidence, and we’re going to be a more dangerous team.”

The Knights left town Wednesday with a commanding 3-1 lead over the Sharks in their Western Conference quarterfinal, and they’ve done it despite little production from the nominal first line of Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith.

But as Stastny pointed out, there are signs the group could be set to break out as the best-of-seven series continues with Game 5 on Thursday at SAP Center.

“Yeah, obviously it’s not necessarily been the best four games for our line,” Marchessault said. “We think that’s the best part of it. We’re up 3-1 and we didn’t even get started as a line. We want to help out the team as much as we can, and when you win like this, you get to live another day and play another game. I think it’s good for us.”

After the Karlsson line combined for eight goals and 17 assists during the Knights’ six-game win over San Jose in the conference semifinals last season, they’ve been held to six points in four games this series.

Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty and Stastny sit 1-2-3 in the NHL in postseason scoring entering Wednesday’s games, as they’ve taken advantage of the extra attention the Sharks have placed on Karlsson, Marchessault and Smith.

“It’s good for our players when they get some confidence and all that, but they’re playing well,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “They’re leading the series 3-1. I’m sure if you walked in (the locker room) and asked the guys who scored last night, they don’t really care. They want to win the series.”

Karlsson’s short-handed goal to seal the Knights’ Game 2 victory is his only point in four games, while Smith has registered three assists.

Marchessault, who led the team during the regular season with 59 points, notched his first postseason goal in Game 4 when he tapped in Nate Schmidt’s pass on a power play to cap the scoring.

“We got to look ourselves in the mirror and keep it more simple and play the right way. We know how to do that,” Marchessault said. “I think we had such success against them last year that we maybe thought we’d have the same thing, but right now we’re just going to keep watching Stastny’s line do what they do.”

Karlsson’s line had just one assist from Marchessault in Game 3 but combined for 14 shots on goal and had nearly 70 percent of the shot attempts when they were on the ice, according to the website NaturalStatTrick.

One play in the first period stood out, as Marchessault hounded Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson into a turnover, and Evander Kane’s rushed clearing attempt went over the glass for a delay of game penalty.

William Karlsson created a similar chance Tuesday in the first period of Game 4 when he stole the puck from Erik Karlsson but fired over the net.

He also hit the post early in the second period and had a prime scoring chance turned away by Sharks netminder Aaron Dell in the third.

“I think we had a great start last game, and that’s what we need to have,” William Karlsson said. “We did have a few chances but couldn’t bury it. Myself, I couldn’t capitalize on those. Marchessault got a goal, and I think that might be the spark that we need.”

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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