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Golden Knights 5, Sharks 3: Power play lacks bite in Game 2

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Silly Vegas Knights, sillier power play performance.

Apr 12, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton (19) and Vegas Golden Knights right wing Ryan Reaves (75) collide during the second period in game two of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center at San Jose. Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Sharks failed to keep a good thing going and may have lost more than just Game 2. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who played 23 minutes in Game 1 and recorded a goal and an assist, left very early in the second period of Game 2 and did not return. He ended the night with the lowest ice time of any defenseman on either bench. If he isn’t feeling right by Game 3, the Sharks will have to put Tim Heed in the lineup for his first NHL playoff experience.

The Sharks allowed three goals in the first eight minutes, and that isn’t even the truly bad part about this loss. Though Martin Jones did play badly, once Aaron Dell came in, things turned around. The Sharks came back from that deficit in the final three minutes of the period, becoming the first team to go down by so many goals and tie the game all in the first period according to NBC Sports California. They weren’t in an ideal position, but they righted the ship for the final 40 minutes. That’s commendable.

Here’s the bad: Vegas took eight penalties, and even handed San Jose a 5-on-3 in the first period. The Sharks actually allowed more goals while on the power play than they scored: in both the first and third periods, the Golden Knights scored shorthanded breakaway goals.

The Sharks appeared to take a lead in the first minute of the second period, but Logan Couture got too close to Marc-Andre Fleury and the Knights were awarded a power play for goaltender interference — which they scored on, putting them one-for-three on the night. That’s the power play rate you want to see in the playoffs.

The Sharks did outplay Vegas while at even strength. If they could have managed to do the power play right, this game could have been a win.

The next game is Sunday in Las Vegas. We know what the Sharks have to work on before then.


First Period

19:02: Vegas takes the lead. Cody Eakin was left alone in the middle of the ice. Erik Karlsson and Joe Pavelski weren’t in a good spot to help Martin Jones: right in front of his face.

17:33: The Sharks’ fourth line manages to get into the attacking zone and draw a penalty. Collin Miller goes off for slashing.

16:33: Deryk Engelland didn’t have to fling the puck into the netting. But I’m sure glad he did. The Sharks have a two-man advantage and go with Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski.

15:39: Almost through the 5-on-3 and the Sharks have only just now taken their first shot of the period.

15:23: Colin Miller sweeps into the Vegas zone to intercept the puck. Then Erik Karlsson goes for a change as Miller charges down the ice. Miller, who apparently didn’t even play in Game 1, scores an unassisted shorthanded goal.

13:49: I don’t know what’s happening anymore. Marc-Edouard Vlasic gives the puck away and Vegas comes into the zone with numbers. Max Pacioretty cashes in. The number on the board is now 3-0.

13:21: Aaron Dell is now in net after Martin Jones allowed three goals on seven shots in six minutes. Also, Timo Meier and Mark Stone are in the box for roughing, because this game desperately needed things to be more interesting.

8:41: The Sharks get another power play opportunity. That went so well ... wait, no it went as badly as possible last time.

7:58: Nate Schmidt is a very good defender and I say a word that sounds like his name when he makes a good defensive play.

6:35: Marc-Andre Fleury literally fell backwards into the net and the puck still didn’t go in. Kevin Labanc was so frustrated he charged a guy, and now he sits and stews.

4:57: Tomas Hertl takes the exact same penalty that Deryk Engelland did earlier. This is fine.

3:55: Colin Miller cross-checks Barclay Goodrow. To 4-on-4.

3:01: Erik Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture come together for a sweet goal! It doesn’t get rid of the bitter taste from the rest of this period, but it sure was fun to watch.

2:22: Somehow, Erik Karlsson’s shot from the very middle of the blueline made it in! Looks like Tomas Hertl may have nicked it. 3-2.

0:51.9: Evander Kane hustles to the puck at the Vegas blueline and keeps control of it around the back of the net. The Sharks rush in the reinforce him and Jumbo ties the game. Wow.

END FIRST: Sharks 3, Golden Knights 3

That was bonkers. I was preparing stuff like “what went well in that period” and “I know +/- is a dumb stat but what’s even dumber is being -1 on the power play” but then the last three minutes happened (Though technically the Sharks are still -1 on the power play because +/- is just that dumb).

The Sharks ended up with a 12-9 shots on goal lead in that period thanks to the wild last five minutes.

If not for the mistakes in the first half of the period, the Sharks would be up by three. Hopefully they won’t dwell on that fact; the end-period comeback shows they haven’t been so far. Anyway, it’s better to make those mistakes in the first period than in the third, I think.

Second Period

20:00: The Sharks’ goal should be to win this period.

19:09: The puck went in the net, but the stripes think Logan Couture’s screen was too aggressive because Marc-Andre Fleury drifted into his butt. Couture goes off for goaltender interference.

18:29: Mark Stone, who scored both the Knights’ goals last game, gives the Knights their lead back.

13:25: Marcus Sorensen drives into the zone and eventually draws a penalty. The Sharks have a power play after these messages.

10:42: Well the Sharks didn’t score there, but on the bright side neither did the Knights. Logan Couture blocked a shot in a very bad spot.

8:34: After a long spell in the defensive zone, Evander Kane and Joe Pavelski push up the ice. They killed enough time for Justin Braun and Joakim Ryan to get off the ice after a long shift and got a faceoff in the offensive zone.

5:02: So we knew Logan Couture would be out of action for a little bit, but Marc-Edouard Vlasic has disappeared from the bench as well. While Couture is getting looked at, the top two lines have shuffled a bit. I’ve seen Joe Pavelski with Evander Kane and Gustav Nyquist, and then later Timo Meier with Kane and Nyquist.

3:50: Nate Schmidt flails his stick at an Evander Kane flying pass and sends the puck out of play. That’s the third delay of game in this game. I love dogs.

END SECOND: Sharks 3, Golden Knights 4

Through some dumb and bad black-and-white magic, a first-minute Sharks goal turned into a Vegas power-play goal. It was the only goal of the period.

The Sharks played most of the period without Marc-Edouard Vlasic and half of it without Logan Couture. In addition to the top-6 blending, the Sharks’ power play, which has been bad, also got weird. Marcus Sorensen appeared, Evander Kane spent some time on the half wall, I was confused, it didn’t work.

Third Period

20:00: Logan Couture’s crotch is okay. He will start the period.

18:28: Brenden Dillon laid a hit so hard his own helmet came off. No, it doesn’t affect the game, but I still thought it was cool and fun.

14:08: Timo Meier draws a slashing penalty. He took two whacks to the hands and still nearly scored.

12:25: William Karlsson gets a shorthanded breakaway and scores. Reilly Nash put the puck perfectly on Karlsson’s tape at the middle of the blue line.

4:14: Justin Braun joins the rush and draws a penalty. He’s done his job. Now it’s time for the power play to contribute.

3:25: The Sharks call their timeout.

3:15: Aaron Dell leaves the net for another skater on the power play.

2:10: The power play is over, but Dell stays on the bench.

FINAL SCORE: Sharks 3, Golden Knights 5


Pregame

The San Jose Sharks (46-27-9) are trying to keep a good thing going tonight, hosting the Vegas Golden Knights (43-32-7) in Game 2 of the Pacific Division semi-final, or the Western Conference quarter-final, or the Stanley Cup ... um ... eighth-final? Whatever you call it, the Sharks lead the best-of-seven series 1-0 after a dominant 5-2 win in San Jose on Wednesday night.

The Sharks swarmed the Knights from the start of the game, holding their visitors to just ten shots on goal through the first 40 minutes of play. A late rally was not enough for Vegas to turn the tide, and they find themselves in an early hole. To climb out of it, they apparently feel the need to bring in reinforcements and, after the Sharks added Gustav Nyquist at the trade deadline back in February, the Knights appear to be adding a Gus of their own.

Nikita Gusev, the reigning MVP of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) is preparing to come stateside to join the Golden Knights in the next few days, after being released from SKA St. Petersburg. Originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning, and given to Vegas in exchange for the selection of Jason Garrison in their expansion draft, Gusev’s 82 points in 62 games led the KHL, and 19 in 18 playoff games placed second. While not likely to be a savior if the Knights continue slipping (65 of Gusev’s points were assists, which are likely worth a little less on a stacked team like SKA), Gusev is still a very good player, and his arrival will be a boost to what appears to be a severely outmatched Knights third line.

Tonight, the Knights will assuredly be looking to play a more disciplined game, as three of the Sharks’ four goals came in situations other than 5-on-5, and, since Wednesday’s officials seemed to carry special whistles that only work in proximity to Micheal Haley, the penalty count on the box score is probably a conservative estimate of their transgressions. The Sharks should be looking to change nothing, as truly dominant performances from Erik Karlsson, Tomas Hertl, Joe Thornton, Evander Kane, Erik Karlsson again but with Joakim Ryan’s minutes, and pretty much everyone else contributed to one of their best games of the season in Game 1.

Lines

Sharks

No changes reported for San Jose’s lineup tonight, which is understandable, but it sure would be nice to see Joonas Donskoi get some playoff action. He was a force last season, and there’s no reason to believe he doesn’t still have it in him. Sighs of relief likely abound seeing Pavelski and Timo Meier fully healthy, after both left Wednesday’s game for stretches due to issues regarding blood and faces.

Golden Knights

Jonathan MarchessaultWilliam KarlssonReilly Smith
Max PaciorettyPaul StastnyMark Stone
Tomas NosekCody EakinAlex Tuch
William CarrierPierre-Edouard BellemareRyan Reaves

Nate SchmidtDeryk Engelland
Brayden McNabbShea Theodore
Jon MerrillColin Miller

Marc-Andre Fleury
Malcolm Subban

Expected scratches: Ryan Carpenter, Nick Holden, Jimmy Schuldt, Brandon Pirri, Valentin Zykov

Injured reserve: Erik Haula (lower body)

The seemingly minor change of sitting Holden for Miller could be a big one. Holden is likely a replacement-level player, and his inclusion in Game 1 was a head-scratcher. Indeed, on the ice for three goals against after being trusted with both penalty killing and 4-on-4 responsibilities, Holden will be replaced with the much more capable Miller, as one of the cracks in these Knights’ armor appears to have been repaired.

Where to watch

Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET as usual at SAP Center in San Jose. You’ll find it on NBC Sports California in the bay area, NBC Sports nationally, SportsNet 360 in Canada, TVA Sports 2 in French and AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain in Las Vegas. For the audiophiles, 98.5 KFOX will have the radio call, as will the Sharks App.