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What’s made the Knights power play so successful lately?

Updated April 23, 2024 - 4:33 pm

DALLAS — The enigma that was the Golden Knights’ power play has been solved for now.

All they needed was for someone to go to the net.

The Knights scored twice on the man advantage in their 4-3 win over the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Monday, giving them a 1-0 lead in their first-round playoff series. The goals continued one of the best power-play stretches in franchise history.

The reason behind the surge is simple.

“The big difference is net presence,” coach Bruce Cassidy said.

The Knights power play took off after center Tomas Hertl made his debut April 8 in Vancouver.

The team ranked 21st in the NHL on the man advantage before then, scoring on 18.6 percent on its opportunities. It’s been a similar theme for years. The Knights have finished with a top-10 power play just once in their first seven seasons. They’ve ranked in the NHL’s top half just twice.

Hertl has changed things. The Knights are 9-for-17 (52.9 percent) since he joined the lineup. They’ve scored two power-play goals four times their past seven games. The Knights scored multiple goals on the man advantage nine times their first 76 contests.

Hertl’s ability to screen opposing goaltenders is a huge reason for the turnaround.

“(The power play) looks good right now,” Cassidy said. “And it has been for the last two, three weeks.”

Stone’s impact

Hertl was on the ice for both of the Knights’ power-play goals Monday as part of the top unit.

Also out there: Captain Mark Stone, playing in his first game since suffering a Grade 3 lacerated spleen Feb. 20.

Stone’s goal 1:23 into the first period against the Stars showed how the Knights want to operate. He was in the bumper, the middle spot in the team’s 1-3-1 system.

Hertl was positioned behind Stone to screen Dallas goaltender Jake Oettinger. That helped block Oettinger’s vision as Stone deflected a shot from defenseman Noah Hanifin into the net to give the Knights a 1-0 lead.

“You kind of see on the power play, you get a couple of big bodies to the net and it can cause some havoc,” said Stone, who is listed at 6-foot-3.

Hertl, also 6-foot-3, scored the Knights’ next goal on the man advantage with 2:09 remaining until the first intermission.

He won a faceoff and went right to the net. Oettinger kicked out a shot from Hanifin and Hertl was waiting for the rebound.

Cassidy said Hertl’s presence helps simplify things for the Knights power play. They can throw pucks on net rather than making the extra pass and waiting for a perfect shot. Hanifin, in particular, has been able to find shooting lanes with Hertl in good positions.

“If the lane’s there, that’s something you want to do,” Hanifin said. “You want to get them the puck and let them do their work.”

Stone’s return also gives the Knights’ two units more balance.

The team was so efficient that the second unit didn’t see the ice Monday, but right wing Jonathan Marchessault — who scored a team-leading 42 goals this season — is now part of it.

That gives the Knights two groups they can be confident in.

“I like the balance that brings,” Cassidy said. “If one unit’s having an off night, you’re not overtaxing one unit.”

Marchessault isn’t the only headliner on the Knights’ second unit.

Center William Karlsson, who scored 30 goals this season, and defensemen Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo also give the group some punch.

“That was our first unit for a long time,” Cassidy said. “They’re no slouches either.”

Another dimension

The power play found its footing at the right time for the Knights.

Their five-on-five offense isn’t clicking as well. They finished with a season-low 15 shots on goal Monday.

The Knights aren’t going to complain about how the wins come at this point. They’ll be happy if their newfound confidence on the power play helps them to return to Las Vegas with a 2-0 series lead.

“We’re happy we won one game, but we know it doesn’t mean nothing right now,” Marchessault said. “Business as usual.”

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

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