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Small adjustment to Knights’ power play helps end slump

Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy has gone through a love-hate relationship with his team’s power play this season, leaning more toward the latter recently.

But he had nothing but praise for that unit’s performance in Thursday’s 6-5 victory at Montreal. The Knights’ final three goals came on the power play as they rallied from a 4-3 deficit.

“There was a lot of o-zone time,” Cassidy said. “We tried to make some backdoor plays, and some of them connected but couldn’t finish. I think we executed the plays we wanted to or were trying to. We just didn’t finish them until late in the third.”

The Knights hadn’t scored a power-play goal since Nov. 4 when Jack Eichel converted in a 7-0 victory against Colorado, and Cassidy expressed his frustration with the unit following Tuesday’s 3-0 loss at Washington when he said they were forcing plays and “killing our own penalty.”

Against the Canadiens, the Knights found a soft spot in the penalty kill and took advantage by putting Mark Stone and William Karlsson near the blue paint to create a numerical advantage. The Knights finished with a season-high 14 shots on goal and 30 shot attempts on the power play.

Karlsson, who usually plays the “bumper” position in the middle of the slot on the power play, generated five shots on goal and 0.73 individual expected goals during five-on-four play, according to the website NaturalStatTrick.com.

“Our game plan was to play down low,” Cassidy said. “Teams that are in these diamonds now taking away the elbow shots … try to two-on-one them at the net. We felt we could do that with this particular kill, and we were able to get some down there.

“Now, (Karlsson is) new to that kind of position. But he must have had most of the looks.”

The Knights were 0 for their past 11 with the man advantage before defenseman Shea Theodore fired a long wrist shot through traffic to tie the score at 4 late in the second period Thursday.

After Pavel Dorofeyev had several of his teeth knocked out by a high stick from Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher late in the third period, the Knights came through with two goals on the subsequent power plays to complete the comeback.

Eichel, operating on the right flank instead of his usual spot on the left, beat Montreal goalie Cayden Primeau with a shot from the top of the faceoff circle before Stone stuffed in the eventual game-winner on a wraparound with 1:12 remaining.

“We’re just making the right plays at the right time,” winger Jonathan Marchessault said. “We weren’t forcing anything really. We had a lot of good looks in front of their goalie, like two-on-ones there on the goal line. (Karlsson) and (Stone) were doing a great job there.”

Thanks to their 3-for-7 effort against Montreal, the Knights entered Friday tied with Carolina for ninth in the NHL on the power play at 24.1 percent.

Philadelphia, which hosts the Knights on Saturday, ranks in the middle of the NHL on the penalty kill at 80.4 percent.

“It’s good for our power play to get going and at an opportunistic time,” Stone said. “Sometimes your power play can win you games, sometimes it can lose you games. (Thursday) I thought we did a really good job of finding a way.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on X.

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