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3 takeaways from Knights’ win: Center feeling good with two assists

Updated January 15, 2024 - 8:02 pm

Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy wasn’t sure whether center Chandler Stephenson would be available for Monday’s 3 p.m. game until minutes before the puck dropped.

About 22 minutes to be exact.

“This morning I heard he was doing better, but you have to make it through warm up,” Cassidy said. “So about 2:38 p.m. this afternoon or so (is) when I truly felt comfortable. And I’m glad he played.”

Stephenson, who missed Saturday’s practice with an illness, had gorgeous assists on two of captain Mark Stone’s three goals as the Knights earned a 4-1 victory over the Nashville Predators at T-Mobile Arena.

It was the first regular-season hat trick of Stone’s career. It was also the 12th all-time for the Knights (25-14-5).

Stephenson was knocked to the ice 1:11 into the second period on a 2-on-1, but somehow put a pass right on Stone’s stick for a goal to put the Knights ahead 2-0.

Luke Evangelista scored with 2:38 left before the second intermission to get the Predators (24-19-1) within a goal. Stone responded by grabbing his third goal with 24 seconds left in the period after Stephenson dropped the puck to him off the rush.

“Sometimes you play better when you’re feeling sick because you don’t overextend yourself,” Cassidy said. “You know you have to get on and off so you don’t get winded. That happens sometimes. But it was nice to see him out there.”

Stone and Stephenson were the offensive stars for the Knights. Goaltender Logan Thompson stopped 34 of the 35 shots he faced.

It was a solid all-around game for the Knights, who were coming off a 3-1 loss to Calgary on Saturday.

“I thought we were a lot better tonight as a whole,” defenseman Nic Hague said. ‘We defended well and everyone was pulling in the same direction. I thought we really needed a game like that. It was more back to what we know and what we expect of ourselves, and then Logan played great and was there to shut the door on the chances they did get.”

Left wing Pavel Dorofeyev also had two assists for the Knights.

Here are three takeaways from the win:

1. Slow start

The Knights didn’t get their first shot on goal until almost 15 minutes into the game.

Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo put a shot on net from the blue line, then fired his own rebound at the net.

The Knights started generating chances after that. Stone scored his first goal 30 seconds later on the Knights’ first shot.

Cassidy wasn’t concerned despite the lack of early activity for Nashville goaltender Juuse Saros.

“I looked up during a timeout and we didn’t have a shot and they had six or seven,” Cassidy said. “But I didn’t feel like we were being dominated like we were against Florida (in a 4-1 loss Jan. 4) when it felt like we were in our end the whole time and they had like 20 shots to our three. It did feel like we weren’t generating much, but I didn’t feel we were under water in terms of the play. We just had to win a few more battles.”

2. Killer instinct

The Knights killed all four of Nashville’s power-play chances Monday with some help from a recent call up.

Left wing Jonas Rondbjerg, in his second NHL game since Nov. 14, was third on the team with 3:25 of short-handed ice time. He was up to the challenge.

“One of his assets is his ability to kill penalties,” Cassidy said. “We used it last year when he was up and we need it now with (Jack Eichel) and (William Karlsson) out. We’re trying to find other players within the lineup, but he’s always done it. He’s got a good sense of when to be aggressive and when to fill a lane. He’s willing to block a shot. I thought his game was excellent tonight. If he can continue to do that, then he grows his value with the team. That’s an important part for us to fill the void of the other guys gone.”

3. New guy

The most difficult part of Brendan Brisson’s NHL debut Monday may have been the first few moments of warmups.

The 22-year-old’s teammates had him take a lap around the ice on his own, as per tradition.

“I was looking around and it was like, ‘Oh jeez,’” Brisson said. “But once you get your first shift out of the way, it’s just another hockey game. It was fun.”

The 2020 first-round pick finished with one shot on goal. He also had two of his attempts blocked and saw two miss the net in 11:08 of ice time.

“You never want to overevaluate a guy in his first game, but I thought he played pretty well for us,” Cassidy said. “He was on top of some pucks and found a couple where he was able to get his shot off. That first goal was maybe a bit of a learning curve. He got outmuscled down low for a loose puck that goes low-to-high. Those are some things he’ll learn. In those battles, these are men. It’s a man’s league. That’s why we emphasize the fitness part.

“But he helped us win a game and that’s what every player’s job is.”

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

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