San Jose Sharks at Vegas Golden Knights
When and Where: Tuesday, April 16, T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nev., 10:30 p.m. EDT.
Vegas leads 2-1
San Jose may have two Norris Trophy winners, but it has failed to come up with an answer for the second line of the Vegas Golden Knights.
Looking to avoid returning to the Bay Area facing a daunting 3-1 series deficit, the Sharks look to avoid slow starts in periods and even up this series Tuesday night in Sin City.
Sharks need to solve slow starts to periods
One of the main themes for San Jose against Vegas both in the regular season and this series has been giving up goals early in the period. In the seven meetings between the teams, including the postseason, San Jose has given up a staggering 18 goals in the first six minutes of regulation periods played.
— x – San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) April 15, 2019
While defenseman Erik Karlsson leads the team with five assists, he also is a minus-3 — the second-worst plus/minus rating on the team behind Joe Pavelski, who is minus-5. Yet the bigger concern has been a total failure in containing the Golden Knights’ second line of Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Paul Stastny, who have accounted for 10 of the team’s 13 goals in the series.
“They’ve eaten us up in this series here so far. We haven’t had an answer for them,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told the San Jose Mercury News. “What did they do well? You’ve got three very good players that are playing at a really high level right now. That is part of the issue. We’ve got to find an answer to slow those guys down.”
While Sharks goaltender Martin Jones — who will start Game 4 — was considered a weak link entering this series, he did all he could in stopping 34 of 40 shots in Game 3. His teammates refused to blame him, and with good reason since most of the goals came from close range.
“I think he made a lot of saves tonight,” Sharks center Logan Couture said of Jones. “You look at that game, there are power play chances, there are chances in the slot. He made a lot of big saves. They could have had eight tonight.”
As if things were not going bad enough after Sunday’s loss, veteran center Joe Thornton is suspended for this game for his illegal hit to the head of Thomas Nosek in the second period of Game 3. The decision against the 39-year-old, who has a goal and two assists in this series, came after a hearing with the league Monday.
Defense and special teams continue to be problem areas as the Sharks have allowed four power-play goals in 13 chances and a pair of short-handed tallies. Marc-Edouard Vlasic is questionable for this contest with an undisclosed injury that happened when he was hit by a puck in the second period of Game 2 and missed Sunday’s loss.
Stone looks to follow up first playoff hat trick in club history
Considering Stone had all of 18 games to develop chemistry with his new teammates after being acquired from Ottawa, the emergence of Vegas’ second line with fellow first-year Golden Knights forwards Pacioretty and Stastny is all the more impressive.
Stone netted the first playoff hat trick in the young history of the Golden Knights and with six goals and two assists, he has already matched his point total in the 19 postseason games from the Senators’ 2017 run to the Eastern Conference final.
THIS IS WHAT WE SIGNED UP FOR 💯🎩🗿 pic.twitter.com/lSTPrUSYdy
— x-Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) April 15, 2019
“I just love being here,” Stone told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “I love playing in Las Vegas. I love my teammates, the fans, the city. This is why I came here. I want to play playoff hockey. We’ve had some success, sure, but we can’t dwell on it. We have to be good professionals and continue to get better.”
“We just want to keep it going,” Pacioretty added after a two-point effort. “Never too high, never too low. (San Jose) is a good team. We know they’re going to push hard the next game, and we have to get ready for it.”
Stastny talked about the chemistry among the trio to the club’s official website, noting, “We read off each other well. A lot of times you don’t have to second guess yourself, if you’re F1 or F2 you know that guy who’s behind you is going to be ready to jump on the play. … All of us could be the first guy back, all of us aren’t afraid to forecheck. We all anticipate and try to play aggressive.”
Their play has taken plenty of pressure off Vegas’ top line as William Karlsson, Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault have totaled one goal and three points among them. Additionally, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has not shown the form that helped the Golden Knights win the Western Conference last year and has an .897 save percentage while allowing 10 goals thus far.
The Golden Knights are 8-3 at home in the playoffs, racking up 42 goals and have scored three or more in eight of those contests.
The Sharks are:
- 3-7 in their last 10 vs. Pacific Division teams.
- 2-5 in their last seven playoff games as underdogs of +110 to +150.
- 2-6 in their last eight road games vs. the Golden Knights.
The Golden Knights are:
- 6-1 in their last seven conference quarterfinal games.
- 26-8 in their last 34 home games vs. teams with an above-.500 road record.
- 9-3 in their last 12 games following a win.