The last time the Golden Knights were at Honda Center, center William Karlsson said he and defenseman Shea Theodore — both Anaheim draft picks — reminded each other that the Ducks didn’t want them.
Karlsson was more diplomatic when the Knights returned there Friday. But actions speak louder than words.
Karlsson scored the game-winning goal in his team’s 4-0 victory over the Ducks. He has four goals in six games against his former team, and seven goals in 37 games against everyone else.
“It’s a good feeling like any other team,” Karlsson said. “It’s been a long time since I was here … At this point it’s just become any other team.”
Karlsson was drafted in the second round, 53rd overall, by Anaheim in 2011. He played 18 games for the Ducks before being traded to Columbus in 2015. He spent two full seasons with the Blue Jackets and then was selected by the Knights in the 2017 expansion draft.
Karlsson hasn’t let his former teams forget him since blossoming into a top-six center on one of the NHL’s best teams. He has 12 goals in 18 games against the Ducks since joining the Knights. In his 18 games with Anaheim, he had only two.
His latest goal gave the Knights a 1-0 lead nine seconds into the second period Friday they never relinquished. They executed a set play after Karlsson won the opening faceoff. Right wing Reilly Smith got the puck just outside the offensive blue line and cut from the right wing to the front of the net.
Smith drew two defenders, so an uncovered Karlsson picked up the puck as it came loose near the top of the crease and scored his 11th goal of the season.
It was all the Knights needed to do to win Friday. And it was yet another reminder from Karlsson to the Ducks that they made a pretty good draft pick nearly a decade ago. They just didn’t see it through.
“I mean, it’s a great start to a period,” Karlsson said. “It’s a bit of a boost. Everyone wants to get going out there and score. I think that second period we played really well.”
Here are three more takeaways from the win:
1. McNabb gets aggressive
Friday featured a rare offensive performance from defenseman Brayden McNabb.
The rugged blue liner, who typically plays a shutdown role, had a season-high five shots on goal against the Ducks. He also scored his second goal of the season in the third period.
“It’s just how it goes sometimes,” McNabb said. “The puck finds your stick more often than not. Tonight it was finding me. It was nice to finally get one by (goaltender John Gibson).”
McNabb had four shots on goal in the first period, which tied his previous high in a game for the Knights. He has had six shots on goal once in his career and five two other times.
2. Stephenson’s penalty shot
Center Chandler Stephenson scored his 10th goal in the second period, one off his career high, and nearly got another in the third.
Stephenson was awarded the Knights’ first penalty shot of the season when Gibson threw his stick at the puck to thwart a scoring chance. Stephenson attempted to beat Gibson five-hole, but the goalie’s right pad caught enough of the puck to trap it.
It was the seventh penalty shot in the Knights’ history, and the fourth unsuccessful attempt. It was also the second penalty shot of Stephenson’s career. He had one against Minnesota when he was with the Washington Capitals in 2017, but didn’t score.
3. Road power-play woes
The Knights’ power play has been a sore spot all season.
The team went 0-for-4 against the Ducks and is ranked 24th (17.1 percent) on the man advantage.
The Knights are even worse on the road. They have converted just 12.9 percent of their power-play opportunities away from home, the 28th-best rate in the NHL. They have scored a power-play goal in seven road games and failed to get one in their other 14.