The Vegas Golden Knights found the perfect recipe for their struggling power play: get a 4-on-3 in overtime.
Reilly Smith’s power-play goal 2:38 into the extra frame ended a near-six-game stretch without a goal on the man advantage, and gave the Golden Knights a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Blues, their first in St. Louis.
“We needed one,” said coach Pete DeBoer.
The Golden Knights went five games without a power-play goal, and were well on their way to a sixth before Smith’s winner. Blues defenseman Torey Krug was called for tripping Smith in the neutral zone 58 seconds into overtime to give Vegas another chance.
With 20 seconds remaining on the power play, Smith scored on a one-timer off a cross-ice feed from Jonathan Marchessault.
“Really nice to be able to help the team,” Smith said. “Sometimes the best thing you can do is put the puck on net and score an ugly one. I think that’s what we’re going to have to start doing more.”
The Golden Knights were 0-for-16 on the man advantage before Smith’s goal. Vegas didn’t have a shot on its first power play at 7:56 of the first period. What made it worse was St. Louis captain Ryan O’Reilly, one of the Blues’ best penalty killers, was called for tripping.
“The longer the streak goes when you’re not scoring, you lose a little bit of that mojo,” DeBoer said.
Vegas had four shots combined in their ensuing two power plays. Meanwhile, Smith’s game-winner was the fourth shot of that 4-on-3.
It’s much different playing 5-on-4 as to 4-on-3, but that’s a goal that could likely jumpstart a group that should be much better in that department.
The Golden Knights’ power play is in the bottom fourth of the league at 17.3 percent. The talent on that unit has the capability of being, at worst, a top-10 power play.
“We’re just stressed out there when we get out there,” said Vegas captain Mark Stone. “I think guys are thinking a little too much, panicking a little too much with the puck.”
DeBoer shook up the second unit by having Dylan Coghlan in place of Alec Martinez. Coghlan, coming off the first hat trick of his career on Wednesday, had an assist on Tomas Nosek’s goal in the second period. Moreover, Coghlan played 2:06 of his 15:23 on the man advantage.
That’ll change when Alex Pietrangelo returns from his hand injury, whenever that may be.
“We have great players who can make a great power play. We just have to relax and chill a bit,” Stone said. “I think we’ve been over-analyzing as a group the last little bit. I think if we just relax and play a little more, not freely, but let our instincts take over, I think that’s where we’re at.”
Stone scored at 14:48 of the first period for his league-leading 12th point during March. The reigning first star of the week in the NHL, Stone deflected a centering pass from Chandler Stephenson for his third goal in five games. Marchessault made it 2-0 off a rebound 41 seconds later.
The first period was a microcosm for how good the Golden Knights were; they out-attempted St. Louis 21-9 and had four high-danger chances. The top six combined for 14 of those attempts and had two goals.
But much like the prior three games between these teams, no lead is ever safe. And for the Golden Knights, who have had to rally multiple times against the Blues in recent memory, they got the pushback from St. Louis.
O’Reilly scored on a one-timer at 5:14 of the second to cut it to 2-1, and Vladimir Tarasenko scored his first of the year 3:24 after Nosek scored to make it 3-2.
Zach Sanford and David Perron completed the comeback and took a 4-3 lead by way of two power-play goals, only for Martinez to tie it 47 seconds after Perron’s goal.
This was the fourth consecutive meeting that went to overtime, and the Golden Knights have won three of them. St. Louis won 5-4 in a shootout on Jan. 26 in T-Mobile Arena.
“These are evenly-matched games,” Stone said. “These are the games you want to be a part of.”
The Golden Knights have at least ensured themselves a .500 record on this season-long six-game road trip. They’ll dance with the Blues one more time Saturday before heading back to Las Vegas.
That game will also be at 5 p.m. Plan ahead if it goes into overtime again.