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3 takeaways from Knights’ win: Unique play caps comeback

Updated January 12, 2023 - 11:26 pm

The winning play was more out of baseball or football than hockey.

The Golden Knights have found a lot of ways to win games throughout their sixth season. On Thursday, they started borrowing from other sports in their 4-2 victory over the Florida Panthers.

Right wing Keegan Kolesar knocked down a high clearing attempt by Panthers defenseman Brandon Montour late in the third period like an outfielder snagging a pop fly. Kolesar then skated deep into the offensive zone and saw left wing William Carrier driving to the net like a running back hitting the hole.

Kolesar threw the puck across the offensive zone to his teammate, who collided with Panthers middle linebacker — or goaltender — Sergei Bobrovsky. The puck and parts of Carrier ended up past the goal line with 2:36 remaining to give the Knights a 3-2 lead.

The play, which was upheld after a goaltender interference challenge because Montour helped lead Carrier into Bobrovksky, typified the wild affair witnessed by an announced crowd of 17,735 at T-Mobile Arena.

The loss kept the Panthers as one of three teams who have never beaten the Knights on the road, along with Calgary and Washington.

“That’s more of a Will Carrier goal,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Go to the net and see if it makes it all the way to the back of the net-type of goal. Good for him. I’m glad they counted it. We needed it as a team.”

The game started in bizarre fashion as well.

Right wing Nick Cousins, who played for the Knights in 2020, put the puck across the goal line 2:02 into the first period but was not given a goal initially because the net was off its moorings. Officials determined after a review that defenseman Ben Hutton knocked Panthers center Eric Staal into the net, so they awarded Cousins a goal and put Florida up 1-0.

The Knights (28-13-2) tied the game 4:08 into the second when Kolesar set up center Nicolas Roy with a beautiful assist. Roy’s goal extended his point streak to four games.

The Panthers (19-20-4) took the lead back 8:39 later on the power play after center William Karlsson was called for goaltender interference, only his second penalty of the season. Right wing Sam Reinhart scored from the slot with goaltender Adin Hill and left wing Reilly Smith — the closest defender to Reinhart — both missing their sticks.

It was only the fourth power-play goal allowed by the Knights in their last 15 games.

The Panthers nearly increased their lead before the period was out. Left wing Anton Lundell beat Hill from a sharp angle with 4:41 left in the second, but Cassidy successfully challenged that the play was offside.

Florida missed an opportunity to go up two again early in the third period when they got a 5-on-3 power play for 1:43. The Knights killed off both penalties.

“After that we kind of got going,” said Hill, who made 37 saves for his 10th win. “That was very important.”

The kills gave the Knights a chance, and center Jack Eichel took full advantage by scoring on a breakaway 8:37 into the third to tie the game 2-2.

That set up Kolesar and Carrier’s unique winning play. Karlsson added an empty-net goal to seal the victory.

It was the Knights’ eighth third-period comeback win of the season. No NHL team has more.

“You’re going to face adversity through a game,” Eichel said. “It’s just about how you respond to it. I thought we were pretty resilient tonight, and that was good to see.”

Here are three takeaways from the win:

1. Stone exits early

The Knights were dealt a blow in the first period.

Captain Mark Stone left the game after 9:18 and never returned because of an upper-body injury. Stone ranks second on the Knights in scoring with 38 points.

He has yet to miss a game this season, after missing 45 last year with a back injury. Cassidy didn’t have an update on Stone after the win.

2. Intense atmosphere

The game felt like one between division rivals rather than ones from opposite conferences.

Kolesar fought right wing Givani Smith 3:12 into the first period after Kolesar delivered a huge hit to Montour in the offensive zone. Tempers later flared in front of the Knights’ net with 4:47 left in the third. A scrum broke out, and two players from each team went to the penalty box for roughing.

“It was pretty physical,” Roy said. “Both teams going at it.”

3. Challenge success

Cassidy’s successful second-period challenge improved his record to 3-for-3 this season. He previously got goals overturned Oct. 18 in Calgary and Nov. 21 in Vancouver. The Knights have won nine consecutive challenges over the past two years, which is a credit to video coach Dave Rogowski.

“Great catch by (Rogowski) on the offside,” Cassidy said. “That gave us a chance to settle back in and only be down a goal.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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