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3 takeaways from Knights win: Rookie records 2-point night in debut

Updated February 19, 2024 - 7:00 pm

Mason Morelli missed a prime opportunity to make a legendary debut for the Golden Knights on Monday.

The 28-year-old had a goal and an assist his first NHL game. But he didn’t drop the gloves during the Knights’ 4-0 victory against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.

“I told him he should have fought someone,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “That would have been a story, a Gordie Howe hat trick in your first NHL game.”

Morelli settled for two points and the win.

It didn’t start out well for the Knights (31-17-6), who swept the season series with their Pacific Division rivals. The Sharks (15-35-5) flooded the offensive zone the first few minutes before defenseman Zach Whitecloud sprung right wing Michael Amadio on a breakaway. Amadio scored 2:28 into the first period to put the Knights up 1-0.

“I think it was just something that opened up,” Amadio said. “I saw (Whitecloud) had full possession so I just kind of just went through the neutral (zone) and it was a great pass by him. I just found the back of the net.”

That one goal was all goaltender Logan Thompson needed in his first appearance since Jan. 27.

Thompson stopped all 29 shots he faced for his first shutout of the season.

“We had a tough first couple shifts and we got lucky,” Cassidy said. “They hit a couple posts and Logan made some good saves. It could have given them a lot of life. The fact that we get a quick-hitter breakaway goal probably demoralized them for a few minutes and it was long enough for us to get to our game and stay there.”

Center William Karlsson added to the Knights’ lead 1:57 after Amadio. Morelli scored his first NHL goal on the power play 48 seconds before the first intermission, putting his team up 3-0 at the break.

Right wing Keegan Kolesar scored the Knights’ final goal with 1:16 left in the second period. It came from a pass from defenseman Alec Martinez, who recorded three assists for the second time in his 15-year NHL career.

“Our top six wasn’t at our best, but the bottom six brought us a lot of offense,” captain Mark Stone said.

Here are three takeaways from the win:

1. Welcome to the NHL

Morelli became the third player in franchise history to score a goal in his NHL debut, joining Cody Glass and Vadim Shipachyov.

“It went pretty well,” Morelli said. “Those guys in the locker room made it pretty easy. Great group of guys that were very welcoming. It was awesome.”

Morelli had a cheering section that included his parents, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin and a few buddies who flew in.

He worked a long time for his opportunity. Morelli played 278 games between the American Hockey League and ECHL the last six seasons before his first NHL appearance.

He joined the Knights organization this season after a Calder Cup-winning campaign with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. Morelli has 10 goals and 23 points in 44 games for Henderson.

“I thought he played really well aside from the goal,” Cassidy said. “He was skating, pushed pucks through the neutral zone, got it deep when he was supposed to, hung on to plays, got it up the half-wall. He made some good offensive plays.”

2. Domination

Thompson showed no rust in his first action in more than three weeks.

He was great at the start of the game, and made several huge saves when San Jose generated looks from the slot in the second period.

“He looked good,” Cassidy said. “He was composed in there. I thought he made a lot of good saves and controlled rebounds. Positionally solid, not overactive. He was able to put out fires quickly without second or third chances, so I liked that about his game a lot.”

3. Back-to-back

The Knights are back in action Tuesday when they host the Nashville Predators (28-25-2) at 7 p.m. at T-Mobile Arena.

It won’t be a brutal turnaround for the team. Monday’s afternoon puck drop meant the Knights were expected home for a late dinner.

The team could get a huge boost against the Predators if defenseman Shea Theodore is able to return. Theodore, who hasn’t played since Nov. 22 because of an upper-body injury that required surgery, was activated off injured reserve before Monday’s game.

He took warmups but didn’t play. That raises the possibility he could be in Tuesday’s lineup instead.

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

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