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Graney: Understated, underrated Wild Bill leads Knights to wild win

I’m not even sure Bugs Bunny would have drawn this up.

While some famous Warner Bros. characters took part in TNT Sports’ broadcast of the Golden Knights game against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday at T-Mobile Arena, real players for the home team pulled off quite a comeback.

Batman and Shaggy weren’t needed in the end.

Not when the Knights have William Karlsson.

He’s a third-line center in name only. Karlsson is as complete a player as most NHL teams offer. He scored twice in a 4-3 overtime victory before an announced crowd of 18,239 in a game the Knights trailed 3-0 after two periods.

Karlsson is incredibly understated. A pro’s pro. Quiet and lethal at the same time. We saw his offensive touch return during the Stanley Cup playoffs last year and it hasn’t slowed.

His two goals Sunday gave Karlsson 30 on the year, the most since he tallied 43 in that magical expansion season of 2017-18.

200-foot player

“He’s one of the most underrated players in the NHL and doesn’t get enough attention for what he does,” Knights center Jack Eichel said. “When you’re his teammate and get to watch him day-in and day-out, night-in and night-out, he’s so sound everywhere.”

Eichel mentioned draws and the power play and Karlsson’s checking and his always-moving feet. There isn’t a man in the room who doesn’t know how valuable Karlsson is to the overall scheme of things. How important he is to winning.

How terrific his game is across 200 feet.

Karlsson’s power play goal 6:35 into the third period cut the Knights’ deficit to 3-2. He then sprung himself loose with 3:37 left in regulation and tied the game with one of his oh-so-accurate wrist shots that beat Colorado goalie Alexandar Georgiev.

Karlsson isn’t about blasting one-timers. He’s not, as coach Bruce Cassidy says, a slapper. But the release is as potent as they come.

Cassidy’s message to Karlsson has been pretty simple: Shoot.

“Confidence breeds confidence,” Cassidy said. “When you can contribute that kind of offense from a third line, it makes your team that much stronger. We saw it in the playoffs. It’s a big reason we played the third line on a regular basis.”

The Knights ended up winning the game in overtime thanks to a power-play goal from center Tomas Hertl. The comeback happened for a few reasons.

Do not discount the fact that Colorado was playing for the second straight day. There’s no question the Avalanche began feeling fatigued near the end of the second period. They were more than a bit drained.

But give credit to the Knights for jumping on Colorado. For finding an extra gear. For getting to front of the net for important goals. For taking advantage of the Avalanche’s weary legs. For sticking with it when the Knights weren’t at their best.

Third-period magic

It’s more than just a win against one of the better Western Conference teams. Bound for the playoffs with two regular-season games remaining, the Knights can use this sort of victory as a reminder that they’re not out of things no matter what a scoreboard might read.

“It’s huge for us to come back in the third period like that,” said left wing Ivan Barbashev, who opened the scoring for the Knights 2:56 into the third period. “Just playing as a group and doing our job and making smart plays. We need to do better when the puck drops, but to come back against a really good team and to take advantage of their back-to-back shows a lot of positives going into the playoffs.”

And to think: Bugs Bunny and Batman and Shaggy and Wonder Woman weren’t needed.

William Karlsson was. Only he could be so understated and score such important goals.

Understated and underrated. That’s him.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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