The San Jose Sharks pulled off a gutsy 4-3 double overtime win in Game 2, tying the series at 1-1 ahead of tonight’s Game 3 tilt. It was a crushing loss for a Golden Knights team that blew a two-goal lead and had a game-winning goal overturned in overtime, though San Jose outplayed Vegas for most of the night.
This is new territory for the Golden Knights, who were undefeated in postseason play prior to Saturday’s double overtime loss. However, every stage of this season has been new territory for Vegas, so in that sense this is nothing new.
That doesn’t change the fact that tonight’s game is crucial, though, especially with home-ice advantage on the line.
Here’s what to watch for as the series shifts to San Jose for Game 3.
It looks as though Gerard Gallant may have made a tweak to the lineup for tonight’s contest that could see Tomas Tatar replacing Ryan Carpenter. Tatar, who has been a healthy scratch for the last four games after playing in the first two games of the first-round series against Los Angeles, took line rushes on the third line with Cody Eakin and David Perron during today’s pregame skate. Carpenter skated with the healthy scratches (i.e., Ryan Reaves, Luca Sbisa, etc.).
Also, Joonas Donskoi will not play for San Jose tonight. Chris Tierney, who usually centers the Sharks’ third line, will move up to the top line to skate with Joe Pavelski and the returning Evander Kane, while Barclay Goodrow will center the third line between Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc. The trio of Tierney, Pavelski and Kane skated together in Kane’s four-goal outburst against Calgary Mar. 16.
The goalie duel continues
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 127 of 130 shots for a .977 save percentage and 0.65 goals-against average, while Martin Jones stopped 128 of 132 shots and came out of the first round with a .970 save percentage and 1.00 goals-against average.
While Fleury recorded his third shutout of the postseason in a 7-0 rout in Game 1, this has been anything but a low-scoring series thus far. In fact, these teams have scored a combined 14 goals in two games.
Even though Fleury has given up four goals compared to Jones’ eight, the goalies are tied where it counts — in the win column.
Plus, Fleury demonstrated for the first time in a while that he is, in fact, human. His poor decision in the second period of Game 2 led to San Jose’s game-tying goal, and Fleury did give up four goals in the contest, even if a few of them were not his fault.
Jones also gave up a few goals he’d like to have back, but he also made key timely saves for the Sharks.
One such play that got lost in the shuffle because of the dramatic momentum shifts throughout the game, however, was Jones’ ten-bell save on Alex Tuch late in the first period.
Both goalies possess game-changing ability and have demonstrated an elite level of dominance during this year’s second season. While the Knights and Sharks have potent offensive firepower, the game could rest on the shoulders of the men who man the crease.
Discipline, discipline, discipline
Discipline has played a huge role in this series so far. San Jose was the guilty party in Game 1, giving Vegas ten power-play opportunities, which included a five-minute major that featured two minutes of 5-on-3 action. The roles were reversed in Game 2 as the Knights were the ones frequenting the sin bin, taking 22 minutes of penalties and giving San Jose seven power plays.
The Sharks scored four goals in Game 2; not one of them came at 5-on-5 hockey. San Jose converted on two out of seven power plays and scored the other two goals at 4-on-4 after Vegas initiated plays that resulted in matching minors.
While there is such a thing as a good penalty, Vegas did not take any. In fact, the Knights were often out of control and even dirty on several occasions in Game 2.
For example, James Neal delivered a late hit on Meier.
Careless move by James Neal here. Takes a run at Timo Meier after the whistle, gets clobbered by Meier's teammates and head down the Vegas tunnel with a potential injury. pic.twitter.com/d4SR5HRXwZ— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) April 29, 2018
Also, William Carrier went knee-on-knee on Dylan DeMelo.
But many of the plays were simply unnecessary and completely ill-advised. Perron took three penalties on the night, one of which resulted in a Brent Burns goal four seconds into the power play and another resulting in a 4-on-4 strike.
Even Jonathan Marchessault got involved in the chippy nature of the game.
MARCHESSAULT IS FIGHTING (or something similar to it). pic.twitter.com/CevR4UaB5z— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) April 29, 2018
He and Marc-Edouard Vlasic received matching minors and went to the box for roughing. Just 1:14 later, Logan Couture tied the game at 2-2 at the 11:08 mark of the second frame.
As for tonight, the game plan should be pretty simple: stay out of the box.
While that’s sometimes easier said than done, Vegas finished 30th in the league in the regular season with just 6:49 of penalty minutes per game. The Knights know they cannot give up an average of six power plays per game, especially with a mediocre man advantage of their own (16.7 percent).
Feel the Burn
Burns was a catalyst for the Sharks from the start of Game 2. He finished the game with two goals and three points, which is more than he accumulated through the first five games of the postseason. He also recorded six shots, five hits and two blocks in 36:48 of ice time. But Burns played well against Vegas during the regular season as well, scoring two goals and five points in four contests.
Burns is a rare breed in the NHL as a defenseman with the offensive capabilities of a first-line forward. Though he got caught jumping in the play a few times early in Game 2, he made his presence felt immediately and had an excellent overall performance. The Sharks will need his booming shot from the point (especially on the power play) as well as his overall two-way ability and offensive instincts. Burns has the potential to be a true X factor in this series, and the fan favorite could get things started tonight at SAP Center.
Kane is Able
Kane will return to the lineup tonight after serving a one-game suspension for cross-checking Pierre-Edouard Bellemare in Game 1. Even though San Jose was victorious in Game 2 without him, he is one of the Sharks’ most gifted offensive weapons despite sitting dead last on the team in 5v5 Corsi For percentage throughout the postseason (40.97).
Including 17 regular-season games and five postseason games, Kane has recorded 18 points in 22 contests since San Jose acquired him from Buffalo at the trade deadline. Believe it or not, this is the first playoff action of Kane’s NHL career after he spent parts of nine seasons with the Thrashers, Jets and Sabres, so you can bet he’ll be fired up and raring to go in a critical Game 3.
How to Watch
Time: 7 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports Network
Radio: Fox Sports Radio 98.9 FM/1340 AM