Hill’s return spurs Knights to bounce-back win over Islanders

Kim Montuoro-The Sporting Tribune
The Sporting Tribune's Steve Carp is on the road with the Golden Knights and writes Adin Hill's return fueled a much-needed win.

ELMONT, N.Y. — Sheryl Crow was right. A change would do you good.

The Vegas Golden Knights needed to change things up Tuesday following the 6-5 overtime loss to New Jersey in Newark Monday. And change they did.

For starters, they took the Long Island Rail Road to UBS Arena rather than ride the bus and battle the horrendous afternoon midtown Manhattan traffic out to Long Island. But the bigger change came on the ice and in goal where the Knights welcomed back Adin Hill who had been out since Dec. 17 when he was injured in 6:25 into the first period against Ottawa. 

Logan Thompson had been playing well but he was due for a break, particularly after struggling at times Monday against the Devils. Hill came off Injured Reserve late Tuesday afternoon and he finished what he started, making 40 saves in Vegas’ 3-2 win over the New York Islanders.

Coach Bruce Cassidy also replaced rookie Brendan Brisson with Sheldon Rempal and Rempal made the coach look good by scoring on the power play in the second period for his first NHL goal.

“We wanted to win a hockey game; we did that,” Cassidy said. “Certainly we weren’t perfect. But I felt we competed harder and we kept the puck out of our net, which was basically the ask after (Monday) night.” 

But the big news was the return of Hill. No. 33 had played just over six minutes against the Senators after missing seven games. Then he went on IR and missed 15 more. So his returning to the crease is important as the Knights continue to play with a patchwork lineup as key contributors remain out.

“I felt good,” Hill said. “It was fun the get back into action and battle with my teammates. 

“You always like to face a lot of shots. You get a lot more confidence with each stop you make.”

Hill had hoped to return sooner from his lower-body injuries but there were yellow lights and red lights that impeded his progress. But he stayed positive and the last few days, he felt like he was ready to return to work.

“You get to go through all your pregame rituals,” he said. “It’s nice to get back into it.”

The hope for Cassidy is that Hill stays healthy and he can return to a regular rotation with Thompson, which they had going early in the season. The Knights can challenge to regain the lead in the Pacific Division if they can get consistently strong play from their goaltenders.

“With Adin being in his first game back, you don’t know what you’re going to get,” Cassidy said. “It took a little longer for us to get him back, but some players take longer to come back from injuries for whatever reason depending on the injury. But it worked out. He took a little extra time and at the end of the day, it was good to see him back.” 

For Rempal, getting on the scoresheet in an NHL game was a long time coming. Last week, the 28-year-old from Calgary had recently scored four times in a game for the Henderson Silver Knights, Vegas’ American Hockey League affiliate. So it wasn’t like he didn’t know how to put the puck in he net.

Cassidy thought playing back-to-back games might be tough on a young player like Brisson so he played his hunch in using Rempal instead.

“Great to see him perform in that situation,” Cassidy said of Rempal, who has only played in 14 NHL games in his professional career. “It’s a big goal he scored for us and he competed hard.” 

Rempal said: “Some guys black out when they score. I’m going to remember every little detail about it. It’s just awesome.

“It was a huge win for our group. I thought our back end did a great job clearing pucks away from in front of the net. It’s a gutsy win. They have a new coach and they want to play well for them.”

Jonathan Marchessault played for Patrick Roy in junior hockey and while he didn’t get a chance to converse with him, his line had a big hand in the win which made Roy a .500 coach with the Islanders after he took over for Lane Lambert Saturday.

“We’re getting more comfortable playing together,” Marchessault said of having center Nic Roy join him and Ivan Barbashev on the top line while Jack Eichel recovers from his lower-body surgery. Roy got what was the game-winner with Marchessault assisting. “We’re trying to play the right way, look for each other and it was a big win for us. We’re not proud of the way we played Monday and it’s good to get a win.”

With points in each of the first two games of the four-game road trip, the Knights have a chance to make this a productive visit to the East Coast. They play the Rangers Friday at Madison Square Garden, then face Detroit Saturday in the final game before the All-Star break. They’re starting to get healthy and while they’re still a ways away from being 100 percent whole again, what they’ve got at the moment appears good enough to compete and win.