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May 22, 2019

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Golden Knights’ stellar penalty kill fuels recent success

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Steve Marcus

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nick Holden (22) clears the puck during the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks at T-Mobile Arena Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) is at right.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare took a second mid-answer about the penalty kill to knock on the wood of his locker after Tuesday’s win against the Washington Capitals.

Superstitious bunch, hockey players.

The Golden Knights’ penalty kill hasn’t needed a lot of luck lately. Opponents have failed to score on their last 21 power plays, and Vegas’ 85.5 percent penalty-kill success rate is second-best in the NHL.

“Through the whole season, I’ve thought we’ve had some ups and downs, but there haven’t been really, really deep (concerns) — I’m going to knock on wood now,” he said and tapped his locker. “I thought that we’ve been managing pretty good.”

The Golden Knights have not allowed a power-play goal since Nov. 21 in Arizona, a span of seven full games. It’s not a coincidence that the team has won seven of those eight games, including the game against the Coyotes.

Since allowing the power-play goal in Arizona, Vegas goalies have seen 27 shots in 37:33 of penalty-kill time, an average of a shot every 83 seconds.

At even strength this season, Vegas goalies have seen an average of a shot every 130 seconds. Obviously they’ll see more shots when there are fewer skaters in front of them, but of those 27 penalty-kill shots, only five have been considered high-danger by Natural Stat Trick.

That’s an average of one high-danger scoring chance every 7:30 while on the penalty kill, or about one every four minor penalties.

“We’re making it hard on other teams to make the plays they want to make,” defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “You’re going to give up shots, that’s just the nature of the penalty kill, you just want to give up the least-dangerous shot and we’ve been doing that for the most part.”

Coach Gerard Gallant said that nothing has changed and that the penalty kill has been playing the same way all year. Before the current streak, Vegas operated at a 21.1 percent success rate, which would rank near the middle of the NHL today.

It’s been a good penalty kill all year. Right now it’s a great one, and it’s leading to a lot more Golden Knights victories.

“When we can kill the power play for the other team, it’s big momentum for us,” McNabb said. “We’re rolling right now, we’re doing the right things.”

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