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Golden Knights keep pace in playoff race with 4th straight win

Updated April 2, 2022 - 11:35 am

The math still isn’t working in the Golden Knights’ favor to make the playoffs with the regular season ticking away.

Regardless of what the numbers say, the Knights’ play the past week has inspired the belief that they can defy the odds.

The Knights turned in a second straight solid road effort and swept the season series from the Seattle Kraken with a 5-2 win Friday at Climate Pledge Arena.

Jack Eichel scored twice, and goalie Logan Thompson stopped 26 of 28 shots, improving to 6-2 since taking over as the starter.

“We took care of business. We knew we needed to,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “Teams around us aren’t losing any games. We came in here and did what we needed to do and now it’s on to the next challenge.”

The Knights started Friday with a 46.4 percent chance of reaching the playoffs, according to MoneyPuck.com. But they overtook idle Dallas by points for the second wild-card berth and gained ground on Los Angeles in the Pacific Division playoff chase with 12 games remaining.

It is the Knights’ first four-game winning streak since they won a season-high five straight in December.

Defenseman Shea Theodore, whose parents were in attendance, had a goal for the second straight game after not scoring the previous 27 games. He walked down the slot and beat Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer in the second period for his 10th goal and 40th point, which is tops among Knights defensemen.

Jonathan Marchessault added an empty-net goal for his team-leading 27th, and William Karlsson also scored into an empty net and extended his points streak to three straight.

Evgenii Dadonov and Chandler Stephenson each had two assists.

The Knights were without forward Keegan Kolesar, who is day to day after leaving Wednesday’s game early. Pavel Dorofeyev, who hadn’t appeared since opening night, played his second career NHL game.

“We know the position that we’re in, but we can only control so much and just get two points every night,” Eichel said. “We got contributions almost throughout the lineup. It’s a good win.”

Here’s what stood out from the game:

1. Quality outing

Each start Thompson makes buys more time for Robin Lehner to get healthier, and there’s no reason to go away from the rookie at this stage.

Thompson has allowed seven goals in his past four games while stopping 113 of 120 shots (.942 save percentage).

“Pete’s letting me run with it and I’m having a lot of fun,” Thompson said. “Guys are playing really well in front of me as well.”

The Knights had a brief scare with 3:05 left in the second period when Thompson was shaken up by an errant stick, but he stayed in the game after being evaluated by the trainer.

Thompson saw his shutout streak end at 123:56 when Seattle’s Alex Wennberg scored in the third period after the Knights were careless with the puck in their own zone. Kole Lind scored late for his first NHL goal.

His best saves came with traffic around the crease, as he turned away Ryan Donato during a scramble at the end of a second-period power play. Thompson also made a key pad save on Daniel Sprong in tight early in the third period.

“He’s been a calming influence,” Eichel said. “He’s made some real timely saves and that’s all you can ask for from your goalie. He’s been awesome for us. It’s been really good to see. Really happy for him.”

2. Eichel hitting stride

Maybe the best play Eichel made didn’t result in a goal, as he threaded a backhand pass to Dadonov for a chance in the opening two minutes.

Eichel gave the Knights a 1-0 lead midway through the first period as he tucked a feed from Alec Martinez through Grubauer’s legs following a steal by Stephenson.

In the second period, Eichel hustled to negate an icing call then cashed in after the Knights forecheck created a turnover for his first two-goal game since Feb. 22, 2020.

Eichel has nine goals in 22 games with the Knights and appears to be enjoying his first playoff race.

“We’re just trying to find each other,” Eichel said. “(Dadonov) can generate a lot with the puck and (Stephenson) brings another great element with his speed and ability to skate around guys and protect the puck and hold onto it. We had a lot of chances and it was good to see a few go in.”

3. Bricks in the wall

The return of Martinez and Brayden McNabb on defense has had a noticeable impact.

The Knights had nearly as many blocked shots (26) as shots on goal allowed (28) against the Kraken. Martinez finished with a game-high five blocked shots.

“They’re so good in their own zone,” Eichel said. “It seems like the two of them block every shot that’s put at our net.”

Seattle managed five shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes before opening up in the final two periods.

That defensive effort came on the heels of Wednesday when the Knights registered 14 blocked shots and limited Seattle to 16 shots over the final 54:07.

“Those guys have made a huge difference,” DeBoer said. “I think that just solidifies things defensively. And it also helps us on our breakouts, which leads to speed through the neutral zone. That’s been the biggest difference.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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