WINNIPEG, Manitoba — The Golden Knights gave up quite a bit to acquire Tomas Tatar at the trade deadline in hope that he would provide scoring punch for the stretch run and playoffs.
They finally got a return on the investment in Monday’s 3-1 win in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final.
Tatar scored the Knights’ first goal when he followed his own miss from the side of the net after it caromed off the boards to beat Connor Hellebuyck at 13:23 of the first period.
“I think I missed the net on the first one,” Tatar said.
“I was just trying to get around the net and Shea (Theodore) made a beautiful play to get me the puck. I think I was supposed to score the first one, but I tried to stay with the rebound and I was fortunate enough to put it in.”
The goal did more than just give the Knights the quick lead they were hoping for after falling behind 3-0 early in a Game 1 loss.
It also helped take the crowd out of the game.
“The last game in the stands it felt way louder than tonight,” Tatar said. “It’s good. Obviously, the fans are the seventh man on the ice, but I think we played great and took control the rest of the game.”
Tatar was in the lineup because David Perron “wasn’t feeling well,” according to coach Gerard Gallant.
Tatar, who was acquired from Detroit for three draft picks — including a first-rounder this year — had been active for just four of the previous 11 playoff games. He had not recorded a point and generated only four shots on goal.
He played the first two games against Los Angeles and Games 3 and 4 on the road in San Jose.
“I wouldn’t say (I was) frustrated,” Tatar said of watching games from the press box. “It’s more that you want to help the team any way you can and it’s just beating you up when you’re in the stands and some stuff doesn’t go our way.
“We’re here all for one goal. We want to win the Cup and we’re all doing everything we can to do it. If that’s the choice (Gallant makes), you have to respect it and be a good teammate and help motivate the guys as much as you can.
“It’s not easy, but I’ve been working at practice to try to be ready for an opportunity like this.”
He took full advantage, much to the delight of his teammates.
“What a luxury to be able to put Tomas Tatar into a game in the playoffs,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said. “The guy has been an incredible player in this league and proved it for many years and to be able to go out there and do what he did.
“That’s what I think the mojo of this team is. What it boils down to is we have a group of guys that is collectively pulling on the same rope and making sure they are ready at all times.”
Gallant may have more decisions to make going forward in the series. He said he believes Perron will be available for Game 3 on Wednesday.
“He’s a goal scorer,” Gallant said of Tatar. “I thought he played quick and played fast and he was hungry to play. It was a great job. He hasn’t played a whole lot of games for us in the playoffs, but he’s an important player when he gets the opportunity and that’s what I want him to do.”