The Vegas Golden Knights now lead their second-round series 3-2 and unfortunately, they deserved tonight’s win.
The first period of play was just as expected for a game that would determine which team would be on the brink of elimination. The Knights came out hard and the Sharks matched the pace of play. Vegas was very aggressive, including the defense, and that led to pair of odd-man rushes by the Sharks, but they failed to score.
Marc-Andre Fleury was also aggressive in the first period and that led to a couple more scoring chances. In both cases, the (too confident?) Fleury didn’t handle the puck well and the Sharks put it on net — just not in the net.
The first period was a back and forth affair, with fast hockey and plenty of scoring chances by both sides, but it was Vegas who scored first.
Late in the period, a missed clear by Mikkel Boedker led to sustained pressure by the Golden Knights. Brenden Dillon let up just a little bit on James Neal and that was all it took for Neal to put it past Martin Jones. With just three second left in the period, Vegas took a 1-0 lead. The Sharks headed to the locker room down 15-7 in shots and one goal in the hole.
In second period action, the Sharks received the first power play of the game. Nothing doing.
Seconds after it expired, Tomas Hertl took an interference penalty. Vegas did not make the same mistake as San Jose. The Knights took a number of shots and Alex Tuch finally got through, putting Vegas up 2-0.
The goal seemed to inspire the Knights, who continued to push the pace. A missed pass, lead to a bad angle shot by Eric Haula, who was at the red line. Somehow the puck got past Jones, and just like that, the Knights had a three-goal lead.
At about the halfway mark, Justin Braun received a tripping call and Vegas went back on the power play. San Jose killed off the penalty and even managed a few shorthanded chances, but the Vegas onslaught continued after things evened up.
With five minutes left, the Sharks started to bring some pressure on the Knights. Just as the ice started to tilt, the referees called a roughing penalty on Joe Pavelski, who had hit Jonathan Marchessault high. The whistle blew and everyone came together. A few people ended up on their butts. When all was said and done, Pavs was in the box and the Knights were back on the power play.
The one excitement for the Sharks was a shorthanded breakaway by Dillon. You know things are going poorly, when you’re calling Dillon’s number on offense. He was stopped by Fleury, but the Sharks killed off the penalty.
Luckily for them, the second period ended at just 3-0 in favor of Vegas.
At the start of the third period, the Sharks received a power play. Tomas Hertl had a prime scoring chance in front of the net. He went for the follow up shot and was cross-checked across the face by Shea Theodore. San Jose could not capitalize on the ensuing power play, taking zero shots on goal.
Minutes later, Theodore headed back to the box, this time for hooking Hertl. Off the face off, San Jose had an open net with Fleury out of position, but a last minute snag by Fleury kept the Sharks off the scoreboard. San Jose was again unable to score on the power play. Special teams turned out to be a real issue for the Sharks tonight.
At 8:36, San Jose looked like it would carry over the pressure from the power play, instead, Vegas turned it the other way and Tuch scored his second goal of the night. 4-0 Vegas.
That goal ended Jonesy’s night. Happy birthday Aaron Dell, you get to come into a 4-0 game and try and stop the bleeding.
The next play saw Neal take a slashing penalty on Eric Fehr. Maybe the change was the kick in the pants San Jose needed, because the Sharks’ power play finally found the back of the net. Hertl brought the puck into the zone and then sent it across the blueline to Logan Couture. Couture skated the puck to the top of the circle and then sent it cross ice to Kevin Labanc, who shot it right by Fleury. The goal was Labanc’s first career playoff goal.
Vegas pushed right back. Marchessault had a point blank shot that was turned away by Dell. Reilly Smith followed that up with a point blank shot of his own. Dell denied that one as well.
The Sharks turned the puck the other way and Couture went back to work in the Knights’ zone. He sent the puck low, where Boedker picked it up and tried a wrap around. It didn’t work, but Hertl was there to finish off the play, breaking through to the back of the net for San Jose.
Exactly four minutes later, the Couture-Hertl-Boedker line was back at it in the Vegas zone. Dylan DeMelo took a hard shot on net that Fleury could not make a clean stop. A scramble in front of the net for the puck ended on Boedker’s stick and he put it past Fleury for his first of the playoffs. The Sharks were suddenly within one goal of the Knights.
However, that is where the comeback would end.
With just over two minutes left, Pete DeBoer pulled Dell. It did not pay off. At 1:21, a shot on goal deflected right to Marchessault. He sent the puck down the ice and into the empty net, earning Vegas the insurance goal.
With 33 seconds left and Marc-Edouard Vlasic slashed Cody Eakin in the face. It drew blood and Vlasic headed to the box for a double minor. A little more rough stuff before the final whistle sent both Dillon and Deryk Engelland to the dressing room with matching 10-minute misconducts.
Nothing more on the score sheet after that. Vegas won 5-3 and now heads to San Jose to try and finish out the series. Game 6 is at 4:30 on Sunday.
The heat map honestly makes things look better than they were. Sharks got shots on goal right out in front of Fleury, but couldn’t really get it past him. Meanwhile, the two really tough goals on Jones came out front, practically in his crease.
‘Bout sums it up.
- I have no concrete evidence of this, but I feel like we have not scored 6-on-5 all season. I’m not sure why we thought it would work now.
- The NHL really needs to look at that third period crosscheck by Shea Theodore on Tomas Hertl. If Evander Kane was suspended for a game for his crosscheck in Game 1, I can’t see how this one doesn’t earn at least a game. It was contact with the head and only the head.
- Jones did not deserve tonight’s result. He was good, the guys in front of him stunk. When you make the first few saves and no one clears the puck, or they simply turnover the puck at the blueline, bad things happen.
- Luca Sbisa and Ryan Carpenter were in the lineup tonight for Vegas. Carpenter was impactful in tonight’s game with one assist and a plus-2. Sbisa replaced Jon Merrill who was super helpful with 10 penalty minutes in this series including the penalty in Game 2 that led to Logan Couture’s game winner.
- Thanks, Sharks. This sums up how I feel, too: