Golden Knights’ power-play struggles ‘costing us this series’

by 24USATVJune 19, 2021, 3 p.m. 44
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The Golden Knights went 0-for-4 on the power play Friday against the Montreal Canadiens and are 0-for-10 in the series, on an 0-for-13 skid and 4-for-38 in the playoffs.

Right wing Reilly Smith has a clear area of focus for the Golden Knights after they lost Game 3 of their NHL semifinal series against the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in overtime.

The Knights went 0-for-4 at Bell Centre on Friday night to continue what has been a woeful performance on the man advantage this postseason. They’re 0-for-10 in the series, on an 0-for-13 skid and 4-for-38 in the playoffs (10.5 percent).

“It’s costing us this series right now,” Smith said.

The Knights’ power play wasn’t great in the regular season, either.

They ranked 22nd in the NHL by converting on 31 of their 174 opportunities (17.8 percent). They’ve been even worse in the postseason. Their power-play percentage is the worst among the 16 playoff teams.

Smith said it isn’t just one thing tripping them up. Their breakouts haven’t been good. They haven’t handled pressure well. They aren’t getting to rebounds.

It has all added up to a lack of confidence and execution at key moments. If the Knights converted even one of their four opportunities Friday, they probably don’t go into overtime. They had 10 shots on goal during their power plays but couldn’t beat Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.

“In a game like this, your power play needs to step up for you,” captain Mark Stone said. “The last few games the power play has had to step up and hasn’t even got us any momentum. … It’s about time as a group we take a little bit more pride playing on the power play.”

The power-play struggles mean some of the Knights’ best players have had little impact in the series.

Stone has no points. Left wings Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Marchessault have one assist each. Third-line center Nicolas Roy and third-line left wing Mattias Janmark are the only forwards on the team with a goal.

Montreal has had a say in that. The Canadiens are the top penalty-killing team of the playoffs. They’re 38-for-41 (92.7 percent) and haven’t given up a power-play goal since Game 4 of their first-round series against Toronto.

Montreal has killed 25 straight penalties. It’s on the Knights to change that, or else their offense is going to be limited the rest of the series.

“The power play wasn’t great,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “That was probably the only piece of our game that wasn’t great.”

Here are three more takeaways from the loss:

The Knights’ first-line center spot has been a revolving door the last two games with Chandler Stephenson nursing an upper-body injury.

Alex Tuch started Friday’s game between Stone and Pacioretty after Roy and Keegan Kolesar got cracks at the job Wednesday. Tuch was moved back to his normal spot at third-line right wing in the third period and replaced by center Tomas Nosek.

It was a quick promotion for Nosek, who was playing in his first game since getting injured May 18.

“I enjoyed it,” he said. “Unfortunately it wasn’t good enough. I felt pretty good. As the game went on, I felt better and better. But I can’t be happy tonight.”

2. Third line does its job

A key question for the Knights was how their third line would hold up if Tuch was promoted.

It ended up not being a concern.

Roy opened the scoring with his third goal of the playoffs 3:16 into the second period. His line with left wing Janmark and right wing Kolesar had a 4-1 edge in high-danger scoring chances at five-on-five before Tuch rejoined it.

Friday’s game, at 72:53, was the longest the Knights have played since 2019.

Game 7 of their first-round series against the San Jose Sharks lasted 78:19 that season. Game 6 of that series was the last time the Knights have played a double overtime game.

They are 1-3 in overtime this season and 5-8 in their history.

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