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3 takeaways: McNabb’s nifty goal helps Knights close in on 3rd place

Updated April 16, 2024 - 11:40 pm

Of all possible game-related items that could’ve been on a makeshift bingo card, a spin-o-rama goal from Brayden McNabb likely would not have been on there.

The Golden Knights defenseman will break out the offense from time to time. It came at the right moment for the Knights on Tuesday.

McNabb’s highlight-reel goal opened the scoring, and the Knights got 56 minutes of shutout hockey from goalie Logan Thompson in their 3-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks at T-Mobile Arena.

The 33-year-old defenseman gave the Knights a 1-0 lead at 16:25 of the second period when a puck deflected off center Tomas Hertl and kicked to McNabb at the left side of the net.

He pirouetted when the puck hit his stick and slid it past Chicago goalie Petr Mrazek.

“I don’t even know what happened,” McNabb said. “I just was able to put it in. I don’t know. I don’t have much to say about it.”

It was McNabb’s fourth goal of the season, but it’s a reminder of how good he’s been offensively with a career-high 27 points this season.

McNabb was a scorer in his junior hockey days. He had 72 points in 59 games during his final year with Kootenay of the Western Hockey League in 2010-11.

Sometimes the offense doesn’t translate to the NHL level. McNabb has found other ways to be a constant staple in the lineup. His plus-19 at five-on-five is tops on the Knights and his second-best number since being plus-26 in 2017-18.

“He’s got good instincts,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “(McNabb) can certainly do it. You’ve seen some nice goals from him where they’re not just shots from the point that ricochet in off everybody. He’s typically on the weak side, his timing is good when he’s going downhill, and he gets some good looks.”

McNabb scored his first goal since March 9, and right wing Michael Amadio scored to help the Knights (45-28-8) win their third consecutive game. Thompson made 22 saves.

The win also means the Knights control their own destiny heading into their final game of the regular season Thursday against the Anaheim Ducks. They lead the Los Angeles Kings by one point for third place in the Pacific Division.

A win over Anaheim would cement a first-round matchup with the Edmonton Oilers, a rematch of last season’s six-game second-round series on the Knights’ way to the Stanley Cup.

Despite having the second-fewest points in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks (23-53-5) didn’t make it easy. They controlled play through the first period and forced Thompson to make nine key saves.

Defense and talent took over in the end.

“Sometimes these games can be tough mentally,” McNabb said. “It wasn’t our best first (period), but second and third we played our game and were able to get the win.”

Thompson, who won for the fifth time in seven starts, carried a shutout late into the third. Chicago center Jason Dickinson ruined the bid for his second clean sheet of the season.

It was another strong performance for Thompson to make his case to be the Game 1 starter in the playoffs. Adin Hill will get one more chance as the starter Thursday.

“He was awesome, especially early,” McNabb said. “Made a couple big saves in the second and third, as well. It’s great to see. He’s been awesome for us lately.”

The Knights went into this week hoping to fine-tune their game heading into the playoffs. It hasn’t been the prettiest of hockey the past two games — needing a three-goal comeback against Colorado and not much action offensively against the Blackhawks until late — but they’ve gotten it done.

One more win, or a Kings loss, means a highly anticipated trip to Edmonton.

Here are three takeaways from the win:

1. Second-period defense

The strength of the Knights’ defense was on display in the second period when they held the Blackhawks to five shots on goal and outshot Chicago 23-9 in the period.

It was Thompson’s easiest workload of the game, with the Blackhawks held to zero high-danger chances.

The Knights made the necessary adjustments after the first period, and it eventually paid off with McNabb’s goal.

2. Hertl stays hot

Center Tomas Hertl got on the score sheet for the fourth time in five games since making his Knights debut.

Hertl, who scored the game-winning overtime goal Sunday against Colorado, had the primary assist on McNabb’s goal. He has four points (two goals, two assists) in that stretch and has a three-game point streak.

It was expected to be an adjustment for Hertl, coming off knee surgery, to jell with the Knights with few games remaining. But he’s looking to be in prime playoff form.

3. Amadio scores in return

Amadio made an impact in his first game back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past two games.

The right wing’s goal gave him 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) on the season, tying his career high set last season.

Amadio said he switched the tape on his stick at morning skate because he felt a change was needed. He hadn’t scored since March 30 against Minnesota and was a minus-3 in his next four games.

It wasn’t anything drastic. He switched up his tape-job to all-white tape.

“Just went cold for a few days, so trying anything I can to get the offense going,” he said.

There are going to be tough decisions for Cassidy regarding the forwards in the lineup. Amadio played his 72nd game of the season, so he’ll have a case.

It’ll help if his tape gets him going.

Contact Danny Webster at dwebster@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DannyWebster21 on X.

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