It was beginning to feel like Chandler Stephenson may never score again. Now the Golden Knights center can’t stop putting the puck in the net.
“What a difference a week makes,” coach Bruce Cassidy said.
Stephenson has a three-game goal streak he’ll look to continue when his team hosts the Buffalo Sabres at 7 p.m. Friday at T-Mobile Arena. His scoring spree follows a lengthy drought.
“You start to overthink everything,” Stephenson said. “You try to slow it down and you’re too slow. You try to speed it up and you’re too quick. You’re just kind of in your own head and thinking too much rather than playing and just letting your experience take over.
“Every time you make a play, you’re thinking of things you should have done differently. If you shoot, you’re thinking maybe there was an open pass you missed. If you pass, maybe the shot was open. You’re always kind of back and forth in your own head.”
Nothing was going right until Stephenson got the puck in front of the net in the first period against Dallas. He fired it past goaltender Jake Oettinger to give the Knights a 1-0 lead over the Stars. It was Stephenson’s first goal since Oct. 14, his team’s third game of the season.
“It just kind of feels like you immediately forget everything that was going wrong,” Stephenson said. “A weight off your shoulders. You score and it’s like it goes away and you can just play again and feel like yourself again.”
The goals kept coming.
Stephenson scored again Sunday while skating to the net on the power play against the San Jose Sharks. A pass from defenseman Alex Pietrangelo deflected off Stephenson’s skate and into the net.
“It’s always nice when you can get out of a funk,” Stephenson said. “Get some breaks and some bounces and feel good about your game again.”
Cassidy credited Stephenson for sticking to his game when the goals weren’t coming. Stephenson still found ways to contribute even when he wasn’t getting on the scoresheet.
Cassidy believes that hard work is being rewarded.
“What I like about his goals is they’re all at the front of the net,” Cassidy said. “He’s not a front-of-the-net guy, but he’s stopping in that area and getting greasy goals, so to speak.”
Stephenson, a pending unrestricted free agent, can relax now that the goals are coming.
He can focus instead on helping the Knights continue their own hot stretch. They’ve won four straight and have a 10-game point streak. That tear has the team six points clear of everyone else in the Western Conference standings entering Thursday.
The Sabres come to town having lost six of their last eight games. Former Knights right wing Alex Tuch returned from injured reserve Wednesday and is expected to play in his old home building Friday.
Knights center Jack Eichel, who was drafted by the Sabres and endured a well-documented divorce from the franchise, will try to extend his eight-game point streak against his former team.