DeBoer: Former top forward line identity of Golden Knights

NHL

LAS VEGAS (AP)The former top forward line of the Vegas Golden Knights carried the moniker ”misfit line” into the team’s fourth season.

Coach Peter DeBoer offered another description after Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith helped Vegas rally for a 3-2 win over Colorado in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series on Friday night.

”They’re the identity of this franchise,” DeBoer said. ”They’re three guys that all bring something different to the table. All have been probably overlooked at some point in their career. They have great chemistry. They hop over the boards and work hard every single night and are hard to play against.

”That chemistry that they have is hard to replicate, so we haven’t messed too much with it.”

It’s about the only thing that hasn’t been messed with since Vegas made it to the Stanley Cup Final after its inaugural 2017-18 season.

Marc-Andre Fleury remains the face of the franchise, but there was last year’s competition with Robin Lehner that moved the three-time Stanley Cup champion to backup duties in the playoff bubble. Alec Martinez and Alex Pietrangelo have joined the group, adding valuable experience to the defensive pairings. And there have been a slew of forwards employed in different combinations.

But the constant has been what is now Vegas’ second line behind Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Chandler Stephenson.

”That line’s been together now for four years – chemistry is natural for those guys,” Stone said Friday night. ”I mean, (Marchessault has) come up clutch for this organization since Day 1. You know, he’s one of the guys who helped build the culture of this team.”

Vegas was down 2-1 in Game 3, looking at a possible 3-0 deficit in the best-of-seven series, when Marchessault banked the puck in off the back of Colorado goaltender Philipp Grubauer after whiffing on his initial shot. Pacioretty then punched home the go-ahead goal 45 seconds later.

”This line here, these guys, Karly’s line really got us going tonight,” Pacioretty said afterward. ”And you know, you get that first goal, you just have a feeling the next one’s gonna come.”

Karlsson scored the game’s first goal to give Vegas its first lead of the entire series, giving him his third point in four games and sixth in the playoffs.

And Smith, who assisted on Marchessault’s goal, continues to be what DeBoer called the ”conscious” of the team.

”He’s always making the right play to help us win games, regardless of whether it results in personal stats or accolades,” DeBoer said. ”And it’s every night. There’s never a night where you walk out of the rink and go, `Boy, Reilly cheated it tonight.’ When you’ve got guys like that in the top of your lineup, the rest of the group tends to follow those type of leaders.”

Smith is one of five players to skate in all 56 postseason games in Golden Knights history. He is the franchise leader in playoff assists (34) and points (47).

With the Knights, Karlsson leads the franchise in games played (283) and goals (96). Marchessault is the team leader in assists (133) and points (225). Marchessault has a team-best 20 power-play goals and 19 game-winning goals.

”We’re here since the beginning and obviously, the Golden Knights kind of give us like a chance to be more regular players, and more offensive players in the NHL,” Marchessault said. ”We take that organization – it’s our family. We believe in each other. … I think that this year we have a good team; everybody respects each other and respects each other’s role and that’s how you build a franchise and a successful one.

”But we’re never going to be satisfied until we actually win it all. And I think we have the team for that.”

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