Updated August 13, 2020 - 8:27 pm
Paul Stastny described Golden Knights teammate Reilly Smith as “undercover” in reference to his lack of recognition across the NHL.
Watch Smith’s winning goal Thursday and it’s obvious why that was the perfect word choice.
Smith slipped into the shadows and popped out unnoticed by the Chicago Blackhawks’ defense before he scored 7:13 into overtime to give the Knights a 4-3 victory in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta.
The Knights lead Chicago 2-0 in the best-of-seven series, which continues at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
“I think we’re a pretty resilient crew,” Smith said. “There’s some lulls in the game where we kind of turned it into a track meet, and that’s not the style of game we want to play against Chicago. There’s still a lot of things we need to clean up, but we’ll take the win and try to get a little bit better tomorrow.”
Smith finished with two points and leads the Knights in scoring during the postseason with seven points (three goals, four assists) in five games.
He is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer in the playoffs, and his 35 points in 32 games are sixth in the league since 2017-18. Only Brad Marchand (42), David Pastrnak (41), Evgeny Kuznetsov (40), Alex Ovechkin (36) and Patrice Bergeron (36) had more points entering Thursday.
On the shift before Smith’s winner, defenseman Brayden McNabb hit the post and the line of Nick Cousins, Nicolas Roy and Alex Tuch generated several chances.
After the Blackhawks cleared the zone, Smith looped back near his own blue line and then got lost along the right wing as the puck went to Cousins on the opposite side of the ice.
Stastny grabbed the puck in the corner and quickly whipped a pass to Smith, who was standing alone in front of the net for the redirection.
The Knights improved to 4-3 all time in overtime.
“I think what makes him so good is he’s slippery,” Stastny said of Smith, who had a career high 27 goals in the regular season. “He’s not the biggest guy out there, but he’s hungry for the puck all the time. He makes these little plays all the time. He never quits on a play. When you have guys like that, with his skill, I think it’s easy to play with.”
The Knights played without left wing Max Pacioretty, who was ruled unfit to play and missed his fourth game of the postseason.
Stastny and Tomas Nosek had first-period goals before Nosek departed late in the second period with an apparent injury and did not return. Coach Pete DeBoer did not have an update after the game on Nosek’s status.
Mark Stone gave the Knights a brief 3-2 lead late in the second period with his third goal of the playoffs before they turned up the offense in the third period and overtime, outshooting Chicago 23-7.
The Knights have outscored teams 12-1 in the third period and overtime during the postseason.
“I think some desperation sets in,” DeBoer said. “We’re sitting at the end of two tonight tied, and in a couple of those other situations behind. Our group has been able to find another level in the third period in those spots.”
Robin Lehner made his third straight start in goal ahead of Marc-Andre Fleury for the Knights and finished with 22 saves while wearing new skates after losing his blade twice in Tuesday’s victory.
Lehner improved to 7-0 since he was acquired at the trade deadline in February, including 4-0 with a 2.39 goals-against average and .907 save percentage in the playoffs.
Kirby Dach, Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome scored Chicago’s goals in the second period, and Patrick Kane had three assists.
“We kind of got sucked into their game a little bit, and it went back and forth a bit,” Lehner said. “But we had a really good third, put a lot of pressure on them, and it was really nice to see Reilly score the game winner.”
Golden Knights vs. Blackhawks
Game 1 — Knights, 4-1
Game 2 — Thursday, 2:30 p.m. (AT&T SportsNet)
Game 3 — Saturday, 5 p.m. (NBC)
Game 4 — Sunday, 3:30 p.m. (AT&T SportsNet)
Game 5 — Tuesday, TBA*
Game 6 — Thursday, TBA*
Game 7 — Aug. 22, TBA*
* — if necessary