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Knights show flair for short-handed goals in preseason finale

Updated September 30, 2018 - 11:46 pm

Four players proved greater than five for the Golden Knights on Sunday.

The Knights scored three short-handed goals and topped the San Jose Sharks 5-2 at T-Mobile Arena in front of an announced crowd of 17,958.

Forward Tomas Nosek scored two of the goals and forward Max Pacioretty had the other in the team’s final preseason game. The regular season begins Thursday at home against the Philadelphia Flyers.

It morphed into an impressive showcase for the Knights’ penalty kill, which scored only eight short-handed goals all last season and faced what should be one of the NHL’s top power-play units. Defenseman Nick Holden and forward Reilly Smith also scored for the Knights, who finished the preseason 6-1.

“I think the whole preseason was good for us,” Nosek said.

Here’s what we learned:

1. Special teams looking special

The Sharks boast an impressive No. 1 power-play unit with star defensemen Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson manning the points.

The Sharks scored a goal on their first power play in the second period, but the Knights cashed in during their next three penalties.

The first goal came when Nosek pressured Burns on the point and the defenseman fell and lost the puck. Forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was there to send it to Nosek, who scored on a breakaway to put the Knights up 2-1 midway through the second period.

“That’s probably the easiest pass I ever made in my life,” said Bellemare, who assisted on both of Nosek’s goals.

Pacioretty struck near the end of the second period, and Nosek scored his second goal early in the third to make it 5-1. Overall the Knights held the Sharks to 2-of-6 on the power play while going 1-for-4 themselves.

“Maybe a bad bounce for them a little bit but we did the work we needed to do to create those (short-handed goals),” Bellemare said.

2. Forward questions mounting

Two key forwards weren’t in the Knights’ lineup, and a third left the game early.

Center Cody Eakin, who is nursing a lower body injury, and forward Erik Haula did not play. Coach Gerard Gallant said Haula, who did not appear at the team’s optional morning skate Sunday, was given a routine day off.

Midway through the second period, forward Alex Tuch left the game. Gallant said the team will have an update on Tuch on Tuesday.

“We didn’t want to take any chances with him,” Gallant said. “It’s not his head. I’m not telling you any more than that.”

The absences at forward could make the Knights’ final roster decisions interesting with players like William Carrier, Oscar Lindberg and Daniel Carr fighting for spots.

“We’ll see what happens,” Gallant said. “I’m the coach. I coach whoever I got.”

3. This all might mean nothing

The Knights finished the preseason with the top goal differential in the NHL (plus-18) and in a tie for the best record in the Western Conference with Edmonton.

What does that mean? Probably nothing.

No Stanley Cup winner has finished the preseason with a winning record since the Los Angeles Kings in 2011.

“I think tonight means more than the other games because both teams had pretty good lineups in their lineup tonight,” Gallant said. “I’m happy with 6-1. I’d be disappointed if we were 1-6. We played well, we worked hard, and I think we’re on the right track.”

More Golden Knights: Follow all of our Golden Knights coverage online at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

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

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