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November 20, 2019

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Opening night preview: Golden Knights beat Sharks in physical end to preseason

2019 Preseason: VGK vs Sharks

John Locher/AP

Vegas Golden Knights celebrate after Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Jimmy Schuldt, center, scored against the San Jose Sharks during the second period of an NHL preseason hockey game Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Las Vegas.

2019 Preseason: VGK vs Sharks

San Jose Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon dives to knock the puck away from Vegas Golden Knights right wing Reilly Smith (19) during the second period of an NHL preseason hockey game Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

There were 114 penalty minutes, four misconducts, two players charged with abuse of officials and one fight Sunday.

Such is life when rivals meet, but if this happens in a preseason game, there’s no telling what might happen when the teams meet for real.

The Golden Knights and San Jose Sharks didn’t want to wait for the regular season opener on Wednesday to begin the fireworks, ending the preseason with a physical and chippy contest at T-Mobile Arena.

Oh, and the Golden Knights won, 5-1.

“If we’re talking about hockey I thought we played well,” Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault said.

And if we’re not?

“Well, I mean, it’s always the same guy who starts it, right? It’s whatever. It’s always a big rivalry against us.”

Marchessault didn’t say Evander Kane’s name, but he didn’t have to. Kane always finds himself in the middle of Golden Knights-Sharks skirmishes, notably his 41 penalty minutes in the seven-game playoff series last April.

Often he comes to blows with Vegas forward Ryan Reaves, but it was Valentin Zykov who played agitator on Sunday.

Zykov, who did not play in the postseason last year, drew coincidental roughing minors with Kane in the second period, then dropped the gloves for a fight less than a minute after leaving the box.

“Kane looked like he wanted that to end,” said Reaves, who did not record a penalty minute Sunday. “He looked a little scared to me, but that’s how it is.”

Zykov has had a strong preseason and was an intriguing option coming into camp. He was claimed off waivers last December and spent the summer in Las Vegas honing his game. Fight aside, he was good on Sunday and appears to have a lock on a lineup spot when the regular season opens on Wednesday.

“Played hard, got some scoring chances and he was noticeable,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “I thought he played his best game of the preseason, to be honest with you.”

Four Golden Knights — Marchessault, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith and Jimmy Schuldt — each had two-point nights, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 38 saves to secure his third preseason victory. Marchessault, Smith, Schuldt, William Carrier and Mark Stone recorded the goals.

Lost in the penalty bonanza, or “goofiness” as Gallant called it, was that the Golden Knights won by four goals in a night where both teams ran out more or less their “A” roster. It was an impressive showing, made even more impressive that at 5-on-5, Vegas had 54.6% of the scoring chances, 58.3% of the high-danger scoring chances and 52.7% of the expected-goals share, according to Natural Stat Trick.

Vegas even had two power-play goals, an area in which it struggled dating back to the beginning of last season and including the preseason. The Golden Knights were perfect in eight short-handed attempts, yielding no high-danger scoring chances on the penalty kill.

The Golden Knights play the Sharks to open the regular season at home, then travel to San Jose on Friday for the third game between the two in less than a week. They will do so without Alex Tuch, who is week-to-week with an injury, and with the injury status of Cody Eakin unknown (day-to-day).

Vegas escaped Sunday’s circus without any more apparent injuries. It was wild at T-Mobile Arena for the final preseason game, which could be a warm-up for the main event on Wednesday.

“They have a good team and we have a good team, and it’s going to be like that for a lot of years and all season long,” Marchessault said. “At the end of the night, tonight doesn’t really matter, but next game, the two points matter.”

Justin Emerson can be reached at 702-259-8814 or [email protected]. Follow Justin on Twitter at twitter.com/@j15emerson.