The Vegas Golden Knights returned to the west coast Thursday night to finish off a mostly successful six-game road trip against a hungry San Jose Sharks team looking to reduce Vegas’ lead atop the Pacific Division.
Vegas has only faced off against San Jose once this season (a 5-4 overtime win in the T-Mobile Arena back in November). Since losing veteran center Joe Thornton to a significant knee injury last month, the Sharks have gone 2-3-1 and are returning from a lengthy road trip of their own. San Jose had lost six of their last 10 contests prior to facing off against Vegas, but they certainly didn’t look like a team on a rough patch Thursday night.
Through the game’s first 20 minutes, the Sharks outshot Vegas 16-4 (sixteen to four!) and got on the board first after Joe Pavelski deflected a Brent Burns point shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to give San Jose the 1-0 lead.
Aside from this goal, which he had no chance of stopping, Fleury performed masterfully throughout the first period. He stood on his head early to keep Vegas competitive after an awful start.
The Golden Knights wouldn’t record a shot on goal until the 14-minute mark of the first period, but they made it count. David Perron, who was playing in his 700th game against San Jose, created a rebound off Sharks goaltender Martin Jones. The loose puck then wound up on the stick of Erik Haula, who beat Jones five-hole to tie the game up.
Haula’s heroics gave Vegas a ton of momentum going into the middle third. Unlike in the first period, Vegas came out fast and furious in the game’s second 20 minutes as William Karlsson scored his 29th of the season to give Vegas the 2-1 lead just 37 seconds into the period. It initially looked like Jones made an incredible acrobatic stop on a shot from Jonathan Marchessault, but Karlsson was there to clean up the mess. Credit to Jones for going all out on this one.
Fleury’s mind-blowing performance continued in the second period as well. Timo Meier (the guy who concussed David Perron back in November) torched the defense to get a good one-on-one chance against Fleury, but Flower was having none of it.
Meier would eventually beat Fleury later on, though. Following a hard shot from Burns, Meier got into the paint and knocked the loose puck into the net to tie the game back up.
As was the case for Vegas’ first period goal, San Jose’s second period may have given them an extra boost going into the game’s final 20 minutes. After a penalty to Alex Tuch, San Jose took full advantage of the power play opportunity to take the 3-2 lead eight minutes into the period.
Vegas wouldn’t let the goal go unanswered, though. Brayden McNabb (of all people) joined in on the rush and okie-doked Burns before sniping one past Jones to tie the game back up just a couple minutes after Pavelski’s second tally.
From that point on, Vegas was in full command. Not long after McNabb’s goal, James Neal beat Jones five-hole to give Vegas the 4-3 lead after a quick game of catch with Perron as they raced into San Jose’s end.
With just over two minutes to go, the Sharks were penalized for high-sticking, giving Vegas a power play for the majority of what was left on the clock. San Jose pulled Jones to get an extra attacker on the ice, but Marchessault found an open lane and scored his 20th goal of the season to solidify the victory.
What a satisfying end to a difficult six-game road trip. The Golden Knights did a lot of traveling over the last couple weeks, which was evident some nights (particularly against the Minnesota Wild and Pittsburgh Penguins). This hard-earned win, though, is as good a way to cap off the tough road trip as any.
The Golden Knights return to the T-Mobile Arena Sunday evening to take on the Philadelphia Flyers in what will be their first home game since Jan. 25. The Flyers are one of just two teams left in the NHL (the other being the New Jersey Devils) who have yet to face the Golden Knights this season.