Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019 | 11 p.m.
Sure, Reilly Smith scored last Wednesday, but before that you’d have to leave 2019 and go back to Dec. 30. Two goals in his last 16 games. The last time he scored twice in one game, you’d have leave this season and go back more than a year: Feb. 17 of last season.
Smith scored twice in Thursday’s 6-5 shootout win against the Florida Panthers at T-Mobile Arena — one pretty, one pretty in the scorebook only — giving both himself and the team a boost it will need as the season turns to its final full month of action.
“Hopefully the luck’s turned around right now,” Smith said. “It seems like all season I’ve been hitting posts or finding ways to not put it in the back of the net, so it was good to be able to help out the team tonight.”
His first one won’t be leaving highlight reels anytime soon. He collected a pass outside the blue paint and tucked the puck between his legs and shot it backward, sliding underneath goalie Roberto Luongo’s pads to bring the Golden Knights within one at 3-2. It jump-started Smith, a career 11.3-percent shooter who was at 7.2 percent entering the game, a career-low.
“Not much else has been working, so I guess getting a little drastic with some ideas,” Smith said. “It was nice to see something go in. I haven’t had a lot of puck luck this year.”
His second one was even more important. With a delayed call on Florida looming, he just threw a puck on net in the third period. It doinked off defender Mike Matheson’s stick, throwing off Luongo and allowing it to float over his shoulder to tie the game at 5-5 with 4:18 left in the game.
“He’s played well for us all year — he works hard every game and competes real hard,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “Reilly can score goals too, and it’s nice to see him get two tonight.”
The Golden Knights have plenty of highly skilled players who are accustomed to jaw-dropping goals — who will ever forget William Karlsson’s against San Jose last season? — but the fact that it was Smith was a nice touch. He’s sometimes the forgotten man on a line with Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault, and there aren’t a lot of Smith No. 19 jerseys in the stands at T-Mobile Arena.
But the dressing room knows his impact.
“He’s playing with two shooters, so I think on his line a lot of times he creates those plays,” forward Paul Stastny said. “He took it to the net to create a lot of chances. He probably could have had three or four goals.”