AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
Published Sunday, May 6, 2018 | 1 p.m.
Updated Sunday, May 6, 2018 | 7:11 p.m.
SAN JOSE — The Golden Knights are eight wins away from lifting the Stanley Cup.
Vegas finished off the Sharks with a convincing 3-0 win Sunday night in San Jose to win the second-round playoff series 4-2.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped every shot he faced to earn his fourth shutout of these playoffs, which tops his career-high for an entire postseason.
Jonathan Marchessault opened the scoring in the second period when he fired a puck underneath the pads of Sharks goalie Martin Jones after a beautiful feed from linemate Reilly Smith.
Nate Schmidt added to the Golden Knights lead with a shot that went off the back bar and out so quickly it wasn’t originally ruled a goal. After review the puck clearly bounced in and out of the net and gave Vegas a 2-0 lead.
Even with a two-goal lead the Golden Knights didn’t take their foot off the gas pedal in the third period, outshooting the Sharks and nearly adding to the lead on multiple occassions. Cody Eakin added an empty net goal with 1:51 left to end the game, and the series.
Vegas will now await the winner of the series between the Predators and Jets, and for the first time this postseason the Golden Knights won’t start the series at home. They will start the Western Conference Finals in either Nashville or Winnipeg when the other second-round series conclude.
The Jets currently lead the Predators 3-2 in the best-of-seven series and host Nashville tomorrow night at 6:30 p.m.
Golden Knights lead 2-0 after two periods
Nate Schmidt’s shot hit the back crossbar and bounced out of the goal so quickly no one noticed it ever went in.
Fortunately for the Golden Knights, the NHL reviews all plays and awarded Vegas a goal moments later after a stoppage in play.
Schmidt’s second goal of the playoffs gave the Golden Knights a 2-0 lead after two periods of play in San Jose, and they are 20 minutes away from ending the second-round playoff series.
Jonathan Marchessault opened the scoring earlier in the period for Vegas.
William Karlsson forced a Sharks’ turnover in their own zone and the puck bounced straight to Reilly Smith, who fed Marchessault alone in front of the net.
Marchessault gathered the puck and fired it between the pads of San Jose goalie Martin Jones to give the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead early in the second period.
Marc-Andre Fleury has stopped all 18 shots he has faced.
Golden Knights, Sharks tied 0-0 after one period
Sharks fans at SAP Center jumped out of their seats in celebration on multiple occasions in the first period, but each time they eventually slumped back into their seats after realizing Marc-Andre Fleury somehow kept the puck out of the net.
The Golden Knights and Sharks are tied 0-0 after 20 minutes of hockey despite a handful of great chances for San Jose.
Tomas Hertl came the closest to scoring when he received a pass from Brent Burns that caught the Golden Knights during a line change. Hertl walked in all alone and fired a puck past Fleury, but it rung off the crossbar.
The Golden Knights got themselves into trouble with unforced penalties in the period, but were able to kill both off.
The top two lines for Vegas have struggled to find a rhythm early but the bottom six forwards have picked up the slack. In his playoff debut Ryan Reaves has made an impact with a strong forecheck, and Alex Tuch, Cody Eakin and Oscar Lindberg have continued their strong play from game five.
With a win tonight the Golden Knights can eliminate the San Jose Sharks and punch their ticket to the Western Conference Finals.
Doing that in SAP Center is no easy task. The Sharks have won three of their four playoff games at home including a dominant 4-0 victory over Vegas on Wednesday.
Now facing elimination the Sharks will be fighting to keep their season alive. While that usually means a great effort, San Jose has lost four of its last five games when facing elimination dating back to 2014.
“We have to find a way to have our best start of the series in this first period in a tough building to play in,” Golden Knights forward David Perron said.
The teams have alternated wins all series long, with the Golden Knights winning the latest game 5-3 Friday night in Las Vegas.
“When you play a team five times in a row you get to know some of their tendencies and they know some of our tendencies,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said.
Vegas raced out to a 4-0 lead before nearly collapsing. The Sharks scored three straight goals in a six-minute span to cut the deficit to one goal before Jonathan Marchessault put the game on ice with an empty net goal.
“We came out for 50 minutes and played our best hockey,” Gallant said. “We really set the tone and then we got into some penalty trouble at the end there and gave them a chance to get back in the game. In the playoffs you have to make sure you’re playing for 60 minutes.”
The Golden Knights won game one 7-0 and the Sharks won game four 4-0, but the other four games have been relatively close.
“We’ve got a good team,” DeBoer said. “I think we’re disappointed and a little pissed off that we’re in this spot, so you don’t think about being on the wrong end. That doesn’t cross your mind.”
The Golden Knights are faced with the challenge of matching the Sharks’ desperation in a hostile environment. And while Vegas isn’t facing elimination tonight like San Jose, Golden Knights’ players aren’t lacking incentive.
“We need to be desperate too,” defenseman Luca Sbisa said. “You have to close it out. Every time you have a chance to get that fourth win you have to take it. They’re going to come out strong but we have to match that intensity and battle.”
William Carrier has been ruled out of the game and is day-to-day according to Gallant. Ryan Reaves will take his place on the fourth line, making his playoff debut for the Golden Knights. Reaves had zero goals and two assists in 21 regular season appearances for Vegas after being acquired from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.
"He played well for us when he played (during the regular season) and he hasn't had an opportunity in the playoffs," Gallant said. "He's a big man that can skate and forecheck."
Prediction: Golden Knights 3, Sharks 2, OT
Playoffs record for predictions: 7-2
Season record for predictions: 38-26
Puck drops: 4:30 p.m.
Where: SAP Center, San Jose
Radio: Fox Sports 1340 AM and 98.9 FM
TV: NBC Sports Network (DirecTV 220, Cox 1038, Dish Network 159)
Betting line: Golden Knights plus-130, Total 5.5 minus-125 to the under
Golden Knights playoff record (7-2) (3-1 away)
Coach: Gerard Gallant
Playoffs goal leader: William Karlsson and Alex Tuch (4)
Playoffs assist leader: Reilly Smith (9)
Expected goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury (7-2, 1.68 goals against average)
San Jose Sharks playoff record (6-3) (3-1 home)
Coach: Peter DeBoer
Playoffs goal leader: Tomas Hertl (6)
Playoffs assist leader: Logan Couture (8)
Expected goalie: Martin Jones (6-3, 2.29 goals against average)
Golden Knights expected game day roster
Forwards (12): Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ryan Carpenter, Cody Eakin, William Karlsson, Oscar Lindberg, Jonathan Marchessault, James Neal, David Perron, Reilly Smith and Alex Tuch.
Defensemen (6): Deryk Engelland, Brayden McNabb, Colin Miller, Luca Sbisa, Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore.
Goalies (2): Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban