LAS VEGAS — A five-day break after the Vegas Golden Knights eliminated the Edmonton Oilers was exactly what William Karlsson needed.
The whole team benefited, sure.
It was the first thing Dallas coach Peter DeBoer pointed out after Vegas beat his Stars 4-3 in overtime Friday in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, that the Golden Knights played one less game in the previous round and came out fresh.
But when you consider Karlsson’s wife, Emily, delivered their son Beckham William Karlsson on May 12 at 1:33 am, played that night in Game 5 against the Oilers, then flew to Edmonton and played two days later in the series-clinching Game 6, the time off was well received.
It paid dividends Friday, as Karlsson scored Vegas’ first two goals of the night.
“It was nice to get a few days off to spend some quality time with the little one since it was pretty hectic the first few days,” said Karlsson, sitting next to the game’s hero Brett Howden, who scored the game-winning goal just 1:35 into the extra period. “You rest up, and I felt great today, so maybe that has something to do with it.”
Teddy Blueger also scored for Vegas midway through the third period, while netminder Adin Hill stopped 33 of the 36 shots he faced.
Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz and Jamie Benn scored for Dallas, and goaltender Jake Oettinger made 33 saves.
The Golden Knights earned their seventh comeback win of the postseason, which tied their franchise record from 2021. As of now, 78% of all of Vegas’ victories in the postseason have come after overcoming a deficit (7of 9).
Sporting Tribune columnist Steve Carp explained how the unsung heroes showed up for the Golden Knights on Friday night, and while both teams showed off their depth, a component that’s helped get them this far, one could argue Karlsson’s consistency in the playoffs has been the main ingredient the Golden Knights have counted on since the start.
Karlsson has at least one point in eight of Vegas’ 12 playoff games.
He’s also tied for fifth in the postseason with seven goals, which ranks tied for third among players still in the playoffs. All seven of his goals came on even strength, which is tied for the lead.
The Golden Knights were 10-4 during the regular season when Karlsson scored at least one goal, and are now 5-1 in the postseason when he scores in a game.
But it’s been much more than putting pucks in the net or dishing assists.
Karlsson has had his full game on display – 200 feet of hockey as they say – covering areas of the ice that can create opportunities by doing the little things needed in close games like Friday. Whether it’s reloading on the defensive end with his backchecks, stick position in certain areas of the ice, or winning board battles – all things that allow his teammates to shine in addition to him being rewarded when opportunities present themselves.
“He’s had a really good second half of the year, but a really good playoff,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Happy to see him get rewarded scoring because again, he’s going into areas where you’re gonna find pucks in the dirty areas and he’s still able to play solid defense and work his way out of those areas when it doesn’t work out and defend really well.”
For what little rest he may have had leading up to the birth of his son, to Friday’s clash with the Stars after plenty of time to catch up on sleep, Karlsson’s 17:38 time on ice per game ranks fourth among all Vegas forwards.
Friday’s 16:22 TOI ranked sixth among forwards. And his 1.21 expected goals for ranked second on the team behind defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.
“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Cassidy added. “You need guys like that this time of year. We’re strong down the middle, and it’s been a key to our team all year, and he’s a big reason for that.”