For an self-described underdog in this matchup, the Sharks aren’t content to sit back on their heels and let this series slip away. They needed a win tonight to keep the Golden Knights from being on the brink of taking the whole thing and to be able to return to SAP Center one more time.
Though Vegas powered through and created a few good chances early on, Marcus Sorensen drew first blood. After Eric Fehr ran a pick play that Vegas thought should have been a penalty, play continued and Sorensen followed through, weaving between Knights in front of Marc-Andre Fleury and exercising every bit of patience he had before tossing the puck between the pipes.
Sorensen has been relatively invisible during the regular season, but something about his play is well-suited to playoffs. Pete DeBoer likes to create forward pairs and the combo of Sorensen and Fehr anchors the fourth line, while making them a surprising offensive threat.
Later in the period, Mikkel Boedker did a poor impression of Fehr, but the referees has become savvy to their tricks and Hot Boed landed in the box. The Sharks’ penalty kill flexed for the first time and in what would soon feel very repetitive, they killed it off.
Just went it looked as though the Sharks would be heading into the dressing room with a nice and well-earned one-goal lead, the allegedly healthy Joonas Donskoi came through the middle with speed and threw the puck between Brayden McNabb’s legs and at Fleury in a way that any other day might be hoping for a rebound opportunity, at best. But he went high glove side and Fleury didn’t extend far enough to keep the puck out of his net. With only six seconds remaining in the first, the Sharks took a surprising two-goal lead into the second.
The Sharks drew their first penalty of the night early into the middle frame with a hooking call on Vegas defender Jon Merrill, but were unable to capitalize on the man-advantage.
Instead, the Sharks found a way to answer back in the form of a goal from Tomas Hertl. Boedker went in for a wraparound attempt, and the pairing of Hertl and Logan Couture were waiting in front of Fleury for the rebound. Hertl tucked in their third unanswered even-strength goal.
Up by three, the game slowly descended into something that was all too familiar. The Sharks took two penalties late in the period — Brent Burns for roughing and Couture for tripping — and let’s just say things got chippy. Vegas was understandably frustrated, but decided a better revenge than scoring goals would be to attempt to injure Sharks players instead.
The third period saw four Sharks penalties, including a game misconduct for Brenden Dillon, and five Knights penalties, including a game misconduct for Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Needless to say, the Sharks’ penalty kill was perfect and halfway through the period, they were finally able to notch a power play tally thanks to the services of Joe Pavelski.
Despite Vegas’ efforts — in particular, the efforts of William Carrier — the Sharks wouldn’t be bullied into losing.
The Sharks both limited the Knights’ chances in front of the net and in the slot (where they’d been finding success) and found their own chances on Fleury’s doorstep.
Every game looks exactly like this. One heck of a second period, though, eh?
- This is the first time ever that the Sharks defeated the Knights in regulation.
- Lots of twos floating around — the series is tied at two, Joonas Donskoi scored his second goal of playoffs, Brenden Dillon had two assists, and Martin Jones with his second shutout of the post-season. Good things come in twos?
- Joakim Ryan looked positively radiant in his debut, but don’t let that fool you into think he’s earned DeBoer’s trust. Burns took shifts with Dillon as well and Ryan play less than twelve minutes, the fewest of any defenseman.
- Jones got a shutout, so his play being stellar seems a bit obvious. Still, those big saves he made were the cherry on top of an incredible offense-driven game.
- The physicality of the series is reaching a bit of a boiling point and part of it may be that Vegas is struggling with San Jose’s resident big boys in Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl. Meier laid the body down early on Jon Merrill and Hertl drew penalties thanks to his size. They’re turning into regular thorns in the side of Vegas, especially because on top of that, they keep scoring. San Jose has shown a lot of discipline when it comes to not letting Vegas (in this round) and Anaheim (in round one) getting under their skin and make them sloppy. They were rewarded for it tonight.