LAS VEGAS (AP) — Vegas Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy makes it a habit to start his fourth line because he likes how those three players set the tone.
They did more than set that Thursday.
The fourth line produced two goals, including William Carrier’s winner with 2:36 left, and two assists in the Knights’ 4-2 victory over the Florida Panthers.
The Panthers challenged Carrier’s goal for goaltender interference. Officials ruled he was pushed into Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky by the Panthers’ Brandon Montour, allowing the goal to stand.
Fourth-liner Keegan Kolesar’s pass found Carrier in the crease, causing the scrum. It was Kolesar’s second assist of the game. The other fourth-line goal came from Nicolas Roy.
It would be crucial “if that line can continue to bring us offense,” Cassidy said. “Earlier in the year, it made up for some of our trials on the third line, so to speak, trying to get guys up to speed. So we were able to survive games where you’re not getting secondary scoring from that other line. It’s a line we can rely on.”
William Karlsson added an empty-net goal for the final margin.
The victory put the Knights — who have won four of five games — alone in first in the Pacific Division with 58 points, two ahead of Los Angeles and four in front of Seattle.
Vegas bounced back from Saturday’s 5-1 loss to the Kings, which Cassidy called “probably the most disappointing game of the year.”
“Saturday, we didn’t have our best performance,” said Knights goalie Adin Hill, who made 37 saves. “It’s huge. We had a little bit of a break, a little reset. We came out here and I thought our guys were full of energy and we played a great game.”
The Panthers scored just 2:02 into the game on an unusual sequence. Florida’s Aaron Ekblad had a breakaway in which he deked Hill, but he hit the right post. Nick Cousins then scored off the rebound even though the goal came off its moorings.
Officials in consultation with the NHL office ruled Vegas’ Ben Hutton rammed Ekblad into the netting.
Knights forward Mark Stone went into the locker room late in the first period and didn’t return. He entered the game second on the team in goals with 17 and points with 38. Cassidy said he didn’t have an update on Stone’s injury.
“It’s tough to see your captain go down in the first period,” Knights center Jack Eichel said. “I think everyone here knows what it means to our group, both on and off the ice. But other guys stepped up.”
The teams traded goals in the second period — Roy for the Knights, and Sam Reinhart for the Panthers. Reinhart scored a power-play goal against a Vegas team had allowed just one goal on the penalty kill in the previous 20 attempts.
Florida nearly extended its lead when Anton Lundell scored from a sharp angle with 4:37 left in the period, but Knights coach Bruce Cassidy challenged the play for offsides. The challenge was upheld and the score remained 2-1.
The Panthers had another chance to go up two goals early in the third, but failed to score on a 5-on-3 power play. They had only one shot on goal during the 1:43 of the two-man advantage.
“We got an opportunity to a 5-on-3,” Reinhart said. “Don’t capitalize. You don’t win when when when they kill it off. It also gives them some momentum.”
Vegas made the Panthers pay when Kaedan Korczak found Eichel with an outlet pass for a breakaway opportunity. Eichel did the rest, tying the game 8:37 into the third.
Florida’s Matthew Tkachuk extended his point streak to five games. He has five goals and four assists over that span. He has nine goals and nine assists in 13 games against Vegas.
Panthers: At home against Vancouver on Saturday.
Golden Knights: At home against Edmonton on Saturday.
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