Good move

For­mer Pan­thers star isn’t sorry he landed in Ve­gas — and maybe the Stan­ley Cup fi­nals.

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - FRONT PAGE -

Jonathan Marches­sault was left un­pro­tected in the ex­pan­sion draft by the Florida Pan­thers, who seemed to de­ter­mine his break­out sea­son was a fluke. Oops. The Ve­gas Golden Knights se­lected Marches­sault and he av­er­aged nearly a point a game in the reg­u­lar sea­son, and leads the team with eight goals and 17 points in the play­offs. He needs two goals to tie the NHL record for the most by a player in his club’s first post­sea­son ap­pear­ance.

Marches­sault scored twice to lead the Knights to a 4-2 vic­tory over the Winnipeg Jets in Game 3 of the Western Con­fer­ence fi­nal Wed­nes­day night. Ve­gas took a 2-1 se­ries lead and is now two wins from ad­vanc­ing to the Stan­ley Cup fi­nal.

“Yeah, I’m sat­is­fied with my game,” he said.

Florida was not sat­is­fied, ap­par­ently, even though he scored 30 goals in his first full sea­son and had one year left on his con­tract for a rel­a­tive bar­gain of $750,000.

“I was sur­prised at the de­ci­sion,” he ac­knowl­edged. “I had a great sea­son. I think I was one of the top four play­ers at the for­ward po­si­tion there, but they did the best de­ci­sion for their or­ga­ni­za­tion. It’s been like that my whole ca­reer. It was a re­al­ity check. Just when you think you can be a lit­tle bit com­fort­able, you can’t.

“Af­ter I heard I was un­pro­tected, I moved on and hoped that Ve­gas would pick me and they did.”

When the Golden Knights saw up close

When I saw [Ve­gas] wanted to keep me, I was happy be­cause I wanted sta­bil­ity in my life.” Jonathan Marches­sault

how good Marches­sault was as their lead­ing scorer in early Jan­uary, they signed him to a $30 mil­lion, six-year con­tract ex­ten­sion. He could have gam­bled on his fu­ture and cashed in even more on free agency this sum­mer, but chose to stay with a team that fi­nally be­lieved in him.

“It was not a tough de­ci­sion,” said Marches­sault, 27, who fin­ished the reg­u­lar sea­son with 27 goals and a ca­reer-high 75 points. “When I saw they wanted to keep me long term, I was happy be­cause I wanted sta­bil­ity in my life. It’s been a roller-coaster ca­reer. I was just happy to be able to buy a home and stay there.”

The 5-foot-9, 174-pound Marches­sault, mar­ried with three young chil­dren, bounced around ear­lier in his ca­reer af­ter be­ing un­drafted.

“First time I saw Marchy, he was a skilled guy who stayed on the out­side. Didn’t re­ally bat­tle,” said Golden Knights coach Ger­ard Gal­lant, who had Marches­sault on his team in Florida be­fore be­ing fired. “The rea­son why he’s a 30- to 40-goal scorer now is be­cause he’s more com­pet­i­tive. He’ll go to those hard ar­eas to score some goals. He plays a good, strong game. Small guy, but very com­pet­i­tive.”

Be­fore his 51-point sea­son with the Pan­thers last sea­son, he had a to­tal of 19 points in parts of the three pre­vi­ous sea­sons with the Colum­bus Blue Jack­ets and Tampa Bay Light­ning.

“I was al­ways the un­der­dog be­cause of my size,” he said.

The Golden Knights host Game 4 tonight.

Jonathan Marches­sault

ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES

Jonathan Marches­sault of the Ve­gas Golden Knights cel­e­brates with team­mates af­ter scor­ing a goal on Wed­nes­day against the Winnipeg Jets in Game Three of the Western Con­fer­ence Fi­nals at T-Mo­bile Arena in Las Ve­gas.

ISAAC BREKKEN/GETTY IMAGES

Jonathan Marches­sault skated past Winnipeg’s Ja­cob Trouba to score on goalie Con­nor Helle­buyck in the first pe­riod of Wed­nes­day’s win over the Jets.

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