Tomas Nosek knew he had to do something to redeem himself.
Nosek’s second-period tripping penalty in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final had led to the Winnipeg Jets using their potent power play to tie the score 1-1.
But redemption would indeed be Nosek’s. Coach Gerard Gallant sent him right back out after Patrik Laine’s laser had tied it and the 25-year-old forward from the Czech Republic scored 43 seconds later to put the Knights back in front 2-1.
Eventually, Reilly Smith’s wrist shot with 6:58 remaining proved the game-winner and gave the Knights a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series with a 3-2 win Friday at T-Mobile Arena.
“I feel a bit of relief,” Nosek said. “I’m so happy that Smitty scored the goal and we won the game.”
Nosek’s goal, the first of his career in the postseason, came on a great hustle play by linemate Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who followed his original shot, got possession of the puck and found Nosek cruising in front by himself. By the time the Jets’ defense reacted, it was too late as Nosek’s shot got under Connor Hellebuyck’s legs.
“We’ve played together all year so we know where to look for each other and he was right where he was supposed to be,” Bellemare said. “I’m very happy for him. He was feeling pretty down after they scored with him in the box. But I told him not to worry about it and just go out and make a good play the next shift.”
Gallant showed why his players love playing for him. Most coaches might have benched Nosek for taking a bad penalty in the offensive zone. And while Gallant obviously wasn’t thrilled with the call or the play itself, he has faith in his entire roster and he gave Nosek the opportunity to immediately do something positive.
“They put their so-called fourth line on the ice and when a guy makes a mistake you want to get him out there as soon as you can,” Gallant said. “That’s what we’ve done all season long. Nosek is the kind of kid that he felt worse than anybody else when that goal went in the back of the net.”
Nosek certainly appreciated the support.
“It was a bad penalty,” he said. “I’m happy the coach trusted me and put me back. Everybody can make mistakes, but the most important thing is go back the next shift and bounce back. Be ready.
“It was a great play by Belly and it was a feeling of relief to score.”
Nosek has been in and out of the lineup throughout the playoffs. He was a healthy scratch for three straight games, including Game 1 against the Jets, and he admitted it hasn’t been easy to find his groove at times.
But Gallant has kept him in the lineup the last three games and kept him on the ice in Game 4 after his penalty.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get your rhythm but I’m just trying to do my job when I’m in there,” he said. “Killing penalties. Blocking shots. Create chaos. Go to the net. That’s what I’m trying to do when I’m out there.”