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3 takeaways from Knights’ win: Brett Howden leaves on stretcher

Updated March 24, 2022 - 11:48 pm

The vibe around the Golden Knights on Thursday should have been positive and upbeat.

After all, they found their offense, got strong goaltending and picked up two key points against one of their direct competitors for a wild-card spot.

But the sight of forward Brett Howden leaving on a stretcher in the first period changed the mood of the Knights’ 6-1 victory over the Nashville Predators at T-Mobile Arena.

“It’s obviously an unfortunate situation, and you don’t wish that,” winger Jonathan Marchessault said. “Hopefully everything’s going to be OK. But it is hard to focus on hockey. At the same time, we’re here to do a job, and we put ourselves in a tough position right now as a team.

“I thought we battled hard despite all the situations that were out there.”

The injury to Howden overshadowed coach Pete DeBoer’s 1,000th career NHL game and the end of the Knights’ two-game losing skid.

Howden was carrying the puck in the neutral zone when he tripped and fell to the ice. Nashville’s Filip Forsberg landed on Howden’s back, and they slid into the boards in front of the Predators’ bench. There was no penalty called on the play.

Howden crashed face-first and remained on the ice while receiving medical attention. The game was delayed for nine minutes before he was taken off on a stretcher.

DeBoer said officials asked if the Knights wanted to start the first-period intermission early, but they declined so they could stay with Howden while he was being treated on the ice.

“I thought liberty was taken,” DeBoer said. “He was in a vulnerable position. I thought he got driven into the boards from behind in a dangerous spot. My initial concern is obviously about our player. It was a really dangerous hit. Anytime you see someone get stretchered off your concern is there.”

The Knights said Howden was in stable condition and sent to a hospital for further evaluation. He had full movement, DeBoer added.

“On behalf of us Predators players and everyone else, we just want to wish Brett all the best,” Nashville captain Roman Josi said. “Scary incident there, and everyone was a little shocked, but we’ve heard he’s in stable condition and hopefully his recovery goes well.”

Without Howden and forward Nolan Patrick, who also left in the first period for an undisclosed reason, the Knights had to use three lines for the final two periods.

Mattias Janmark and Nicolas Roy scored in the first. Evgenii Dadonov and Jack Eichel added power-play goals to put the Knights ahead 4-1 after the second. The Knights went 3-for-5 on the power play.

Chandler Stephenson finished with three points, and Jonathan Marchessault added three assists. Alex Pietrangelo had a goal and an assist.

Left wing Max Pacioretty was not in the lineup after being listed as a game-time decision following the morning skate.

“We just want to try and get on a roll and start winning some games and piling up some points,” Eichel said.

Here’s what stood out from the game:

1. Daddy day care

Dadonov was back in the lineup a day after the NHL invalidated a trade to Anaheim because it violated his no-trade clause.

The announced crowd of 18,021 gave Dadonov a loud ovation when he was introduced as part of the starting lineup.

With the Knights starved for offense, Dadonov skated on the first line with Eichel and Roy.

And he continued his recent hot streak, sweeping in a loose puck during a power play to put the Knights ahead 3-0 in the second period. Dadonov has six goals in his past eight appearances and 16 overall.

He also picked up two assists for his first three-point game since Nov. 13 against Vancouver.

“He’s such a big part of our group, and he’s been really hot lately. Unbelievable,” Roy said. “It’s nice to have him back for sure.”

2. Support for Thompson

If the Knights are going to make the playoffs, they’ll have to rely on their third-string goalie to get there.

Logan Thompson made his fifth start in the past eight days with Robin Lehner and Laurent Brossoit sidelined.

This was Thompson’s second look at the Predators, and that might have helped. He stopped 35 of 36 shots and had no chance on Forsberg’s power-play goal five minutes into the second period.

“I like to feel I’ve come a long way since my first game, so way more calm and comfortable in net,” Thompson said. “Yeah, things went my way tonight.”

3. Early advantage

The Knights spent most of their recent slump chasing games from behind. But they looked like a different team playing with the lead.

Janmark deflected Pietrangelo’s shot from the point less than two minutes into the first period, snapping a 122:43 scoreless streak.

It was the second time in the past 10 games the Knights scored the first goal and the third time since March 3.

The Knights are 26-10-2 when scoring first.

“Huge difference. Big sigh of relief. Took a lot of pressure off our group,” DeBoer said. “We’ve played in front a lot this season and had success doing it. When we don’t get out in front early, we struggle like everyone else struggles. The first goal was critical for us.”

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

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