LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — One game in and Bruce Cassidy has learned a little something about his team’s makeup. The Golden Knights can take a punch.
“I thought we showed a lot of resilience.” Cassidy said Tuesday night, minutes after his Golden Knights opened their NHL season with a 4-3 victory on the road against the Los Angeles Kings. “Kept pushing back whenever something didn’t go our way, a goal against whatever. We’d come back the next shift and got our game back in a hurry.”
It’s a learning curve for Cassidy, too, as the Knights prepare for their home opener Thursday at T-Moble Arena against the Chicago Blackhawks. While his players try to absorb hs coaching style, he’s looking for strengths, weaknesses, intangibles.
He figures he found an asset in his first game as Knights coach, when captain Mark Stone’s quick wrister beat goaltender Jonathan Quick for the decisive goal with 24.9 seconds left. The winner came after the Knights dominated territorially, holding a 51-30 advantage in shots and buzzing often in the offensive zone.
But because of a breakdown here and another there, the Kings managed to stay close.
“I think for a coach you’re always worried that when you don’t know your team that well … what will happen when things don’t go well,” Cassidy said. “It’s always a sign, to me, of good character in the room when a team’s resilient. That’s a big plus for me. No matter how the score turned out, I just think we pushed back when we needed to.”
The Knights led 2-1 and 3-2 in the third period, but each time the Kings bounced back quickly to tie the game. The last time was at 12:58 on Arthur Kaliyev’s shot from a scramble in front, moments after a Kings’ power play expired.
Not to worry. At least that’s how Stone saw it. “We just kept pushing,” said the captain, who is coming off May back surgery. Stone said he felt good after playing 18:33, more than any other Knights forward.
And with Stone helping to lead an aggressive style, the Knights were dominant in stretches.
“Five-on-five I liked what I saw,” Cassidy said. “We were willing to hold on to pucks. We were trying to get to the interior all night.”
The effort to get inside, reach the Kings’ net, was evident on the winner, the coach said.
After breaking up an ill-advised stretch pass by Los Angeles defenseman Sean Durzi, Chandler Stephenson skated wide, drawing the Kings defenders deep. Linemate Brett Howden drove the net, creating enough space in the slot so Stone could get free to take Stephenson’s pass and fire off a wrister.
“Even on the last goal, net presence,” Cassidy said, referring to Howden’s effort without the puck. “Those are the things we can build on.”
But the coach said success most often begins with character.
“It’s never going to go your way all the time,” he said. “That’s hockey … that’s what I liked about our group.”
Knights vs. Blackhawks
- Faceoff: 7 p.m., T-Mobile Arena.
- TV/Radio: AT&T Sportsnet/KKGK, 1340 AM, 98.9 FM
- Records: Knights 1-0; Blackhawks 0-1.
- Key matchup: Look for the defensive pairing of Seth Jones and Jack Johnson to go against the Knights’ line of center Jack Eichel and wings Reilly Smith and Phil Kessel.
- Notes: It’s a rebuilding year for the Blackhawks. They open with a back to back; Chicago lost 5-2 Wednesday night in Denver, watching Colorado Avalanche raise their Stanley Cup championship banner.