Graney: Knights’ improbable victory comes at right time
The Knights were all but dead against Chicago in what would have been a terrible loss given the precarious position in which the standings place them.
And you thought Evgenii Dadonov going from the Knights to the Ducks and back to the Knights was the craziest thing about this week. That trade nonsense had nothing on Saturday.
If they make the playoffs and live for the postseason, bet your last slap shot the Knights will look to this improbable outcome as a source of motivation badly needed at the most critical of times.
Each point is incredibly significant now.
I mean, this thing was nuts.
The Knights would beat Chicago 5-4 in overtime before a delirious 18,301 at T-Mobile Arena after rallying from down 3-0 to begin the third period.
They were all but dead in what would have been a terrible loss given the precarious position in which the standings place them. I’m not sure they recover if this goes the other way. It was that big a win.
“We were running on fumes,” said Knights coach Pete DeBoer. “The guys just dug deep. They recognized the importance of the moment. In the third period, our best guys drug us back in.”
Chandler Stephenson. Goal. William Karlsson. Goal. Jack Eichel. Goal. Alex Pietrangelo. Goal to tie things at 4.
And then, it was Dadonov’s turn.
Daddy comes through
What a week for the player. He was traded to Anaheim on Monday as a salary cap casualty, only to have the deal voided. The deal should have never been processed by the NHL, given the Ducks were on Dadonov’s 10-team, no-trade list.
So how does he respond?
He has five points post-trade, including the game-winning goal in overtime Saturday. Five goals in four games. Six in six. The guy they call Daddy is on fire.
“What do you say about him?” DeBoer said. “You talk about how character is measured and it’s usually in your lowest moments, not in your highest. I don’t think that guy could have a lower moment than having to move on and knowing he was traded.”
Momentum doesn’t exist. Things are different shift-to-shift, period-to-period, game-to game. Saw that again Saturday. But if the Knights believe such a concept can now drive them forward their last 14 regular-season games to clinch a playoff berth, so be it. Use whatever motivation you can.
They were done against the Blackhawks. Sloppy early. Chasing the puck. Fortunate to only be down 3-0. Playing as if the game began at 12 a.m. and not noon.
But then Stephenson scored 1:24 into the third. And then Karlsson redirected a shot 59 seconds later. And then life was breathed into a desperate team.
“These are the games you’ve got to win in the playoffs,” Pietrangelo said.
It was different in other ways this time against Chicago. The Blackhawks also visited in early January and that was all about who manned a visiting net.
Marc-Andre Fleury made his return to Las Vegas, traded last off-season to the horror of a Knights fan base who still adores him beyond explanation.
But there was no standing ovation Saturday, Fleury having been sent to Minnesota this week. There were no flowers being handed outside before arena doors opened, no signs and posters and deep lines hugging the glass during warmups.
One of the most popular athletes in Las Vegas history was nowhere in sight.
Chicago and Fleury topped the Knights 2-1 that January day.
Not this time. The Knights before Saturday were 0-57-0 when trailing by three-plus goals to begin a third period. Read that part again.
And then the Knight/Duck/Knight blasted a game-winner past Kevin Lankinen.
“I think we should stop talking about (the trade),” Dadonov said. “We need to think about our push from the team to make the playoffs.”
It would have suffered a major setback had the comeback fallen short. That must have been some talk by DeBoer between the second and third periods.
“I don’t remember,” the coach said. “I think that I blacked out after we won.”
Nuts, I tell ‘ya. It was nuts.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.