Published Saturday, March 31, 2018 | 6:48 p.m.
Updated Saturday, March 31, 2018 | 10:21 p.m.
William Karlsson stole the puck during a penalty kill and streaked down the ice for a shorthanded chance. He approached San Jose goalie Martin Jones, then calmly slipped the puck between his own skates, and flipped it over Jones for the goal.
The spectacular between-the-legs goal put the Golden Knights ahead 3-2, and was the eventual game-winning goal to help them clinch the Pacific Division in the first season in franchise history.
A record-breaking crowd of 18,458 watched Vegas clinch the division Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves to earn his 29th win of the season.
With the win, the Golden Knights will be the second-seed in the Western Conference playoffs at very worst, and have home ice advantage when they play one of the two wildcard teams in the first round.
Golden Knights, Sharks tied 2-2 after two periods
The Golden Knights are deadlocked after two intense periods of hockey Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Only needing a point to clinch the Pacific Division title, Vegas could be 20 minutes away from making history yet again.
Early in the second period Oscar Lindberg scored his first goal since returning from injury to give the Golden Knights a 2-1 lead. Lindberg tipped Shea Theodore’s shot past Jones 3:03 into the period.
The Sharks tied the game with Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s 11th goal of the season 9:50 into the second. San Jose has created traffic in front of Marc-Andre Fleury throughout the game, and it paid off on Vlasic’s goal, as he slapped a deflected puck past Fleury.
The Golden Knights controlled play for most of the period, and outshot San Jose 16-10.
Vegas is 13-4-3 when tied after two periods, while the Sharks are 10-4-5.
Golden Knights, Sharks tied 1-1 after one period
The Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks are tied 1-1 after 20 minutes of hockey at T-Mobile Arena.
The game started with an emotional tribute to the victims of the Oct. 1 shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, which was capped with the retiring of the jersey number 58 in honor of the victims.
Vegas got on the board first when Shea Theodore winged a shot from the point that found its way through traffic and into the net. Sharks’ goalie Martin Jones wasn’t able to see the shot through a screen, and the Golden Knights led 1-0 after only 2:21.
San Jose captain Joe Pavelski tied the game about five minutes later, tapping a rebound past Marc-Andre Fleury following a shot by Timo Meier.
The Sharks outshot the Golden Knights 14-10 in the first period. It’s the eighth time in the last nine games that Vegas has been outshot in the first 20 minutes.
With a point tonight, the Golden Knights will win the Pacific Division crown.
Vegas hosts the San Jose Sharks, who trail by seven points, needing only a win or an overtime or shootout loss to clinch the top spot in the division for the playoffs.
“I think it’s a meaningful game because it’s the team that’s right behind you,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “They’re right there. It’s a fun game to play. San Jose is a real good hockey team.”
The Sharks can clinch a postseason berth themselves with a win of any kind, so they will be heavily motivated. San Jose is 8-1-1 in its last 10 games and has played exceptionally well since acquiring forward Evander Kane from Buffalo prior to the trade deadline.
The Sharks’ offense has been potent, averaging 4.3 goals per game over the last 10 games. Tonight it will be Marc-Andre Fleury tasked with stopping them. Malcolm Subban started the first leg of the back-to-back last night, helping Vegas earn an overtime win over St. Louis.
David Perron will miss his third straight game with what Gallant called a “minor injury.”
The Golden Knights still have three games after tonight to clinch the division, but they’d love to do it in the regular season home finale in front of another sold out crowd. It’s also their last game against a team expected to be in the playoffs.
“I want us to play a 60 minute game,” Gallant said. “That’s what every coach is trying to get out of his team.”
Prediction: Golden Knights 3, Sharks 2
Season record for predictions: 37-25
Puck drops: 7:30 p.m.
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
Radio: Fox Sports 1340 AM and 98.9 FM
TV: AT&T SportsNet (DirecTV 684, Cox 1313, CenturyLink Prism 1760)
Betting line: Golden Knights minus-120, Total 5.5 minus-130 to the over
Golden Knights (49-22-7) (28-10-2 home)
Coach: Gerard Gallant
Goal leader: William Karlsson (41)
Assist leader: David Perron (50)
Expected goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury (28-12-4, 2.15 goals against average)
San Jose Sharks (44-24-10) (20-13-7 away)
Coach: Peter DeBoer
Goal leader: Logan Couture (32)
Assist leader: Brent Burns (52)
Expected goalie: Martin Jones (29-19-6, 2.48 goals against average)
Golden Knights expected game day roster
Forwards (12): Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ryan Carpenter, Cody Eakin, Erik Haula, William Karlsson, Oscar Lindberg, Jonathan Marchessault, James Neal, Tomas Nosek, Ryan Reaves, Tomas Tatar and Alex Tuch.
Defensemen (6): Deryk Engelland, Brayden McNabb, Jon Merrill, Colin Miller, Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore.
Goalies (2): Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban