The Vegas Golden Knights took the 2-1 series lead over the San Jose Sharks Monday night, and they had to go beyond regulation (again) to do it.
While Game 2 ended in heartbreak for Vegas, Game 3 was a much different story. Just under halfway through overtime, William Karlsson beat Sharks netminder Martin Jones with a disgusting wrister from the right faceoff circle to send Vegas home with the victory, marking Wild Bill’s fourth goal of the postseason.
It wasn’t a perfect performance for the Knights, but they did a lot of things right that led them to walking out of SAP Center with a win. As always, let’s dive right in and go over what we’ve learned.
1. Marc-Andre Fleury makes the save of the season for Vegas
Fleury has made a number of important stops this postseason, but none of them hold a candle to the one he made in overtime Monday night.
With Sharks captain Joe Pavelski lurking behind the Vegas net, Logan Couture, who scored the double overtime winner in Game 2, crept into the slot while both Golden Knights defenders had their sights set on Pavelski. Pavelski then hit Couture with a quick dish that Couture one-timed on net, but Fleury somehow made a miraculous glove save to keep Vegas alive.
MARC-ANDRE FLEURY IS NOT A MORTAL MAN. pic.twitter.com/pNfXlYHxmi— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 1, 2018
Fleury finished the night with 39 saves on 42 San Jose shots, giving him a 1.23 goals against average and a .960 save percentage through seven playoff games.
2. Tatar largely a non-factor in return to lineup
After being mostly ineffective in the first two games of Round 2, Ryan Carpenter sat in the press box for Game 3 and was replaced on the third line by Tomas Tatar, who had been out of the lineup since April 13. While it was good to see Tatar back on the ice, the 27-year-old forward didn’t do too much to make his presence felt. Tatar received just 12:57 of ice time and registered only one shot on goal. He did finish the night with a 60.00 Corsi For percentage at 5v5, though, so it wasn’t a totally bad night for him.
That said, Tatar’s brief tenure in Vegas has been lackluster to say the least. In 20 regular season games as a Golden Knight, he registered four goals and just six points, and it’s a little concerning that he’s still having a hard time producing in the postseason. Maybe he’s still adjusting to his new surroundings, but he certainly isn’t backing up the high price George McPhee paid to bring him to Vegas.
3. Karlsson continues to dominate
Wild Bill is back at it again. For the third straight game (all of which against San Jose), Karlsson logged a multi-point effort, scoring the game-winner in overtime and assisting on Reilly Smith’s second period tally.
None of this should be much of a surprise, especially considering just how good a regular season Karlsson had. However, many wondered if Wild Bill would be able to continue scoring at a near point-per-game clip in the postseason. So far, he’s exceeding that expectation.
Through seven playoff games, Karlsson’s netted four goals and nine points and trails only Jonathan Marchessault for the team lead in Corsi For percentage at 5v5 (60.83). He also ranks behind only Olli Maatta, Austin Watson and, of course, Colin Miller, for the postseason lead in Goals For percentage at 5v5 (88.89), excluding all skaters with less than 100 minutes of ice time.
We all keep waiting for Karlsson to inevitably hit a scoring drought. His 22.95 shooting percentage was one of the highest in the league during the regular season, and that has translated to the playoffs as well. Many believe Karlsson’s scoring rate is unsustainable, which, according to history, it is. But he somehow keeps finding twine, and there’s no explaining how he’s doing it. We all just need to sit back and enjoy the ride.
4. Smith and Marchessault also getting hot
Wild Bill wasn’t the only member of Vegas’ top line to catch fire Monday night. Marchessault went off for three points, including a goal in the second period. Reilly Smith, on the other hand, scored his first goal since March 2, thanks to a nifty deflection pass by Karlsson in front of Sharks goaltender Martin Jones.
Look at that nifty redirection by Karlsson. Goodness. pic.twitter.com/t0VzVxeQ1q— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 1, 2018
At the end of the night, Vegas’ top line averaged a respectable 56.41 Corsi For percentage at 5v5. And though the first line got most of the scoring done, the second line of James Neal, Erik Haula and David Perron may have been Vegas’ most effective trio in Game 3. Neal was particularly good, earning a 67.50 Corsi For percentage at 5v5 while picking up a pair of helpers, one of which on Karlsson’s game-winner.
5. For the most part, Vegas stayed disciplined
It was vital for the Golden Knights to stay out of the box in Game 3. The majority of San Jose’s goals in Round 2 have been scored when on the power play or at 4v4. Vegas, while not necessarily dominant, certainly has the edge over San Jose at 5v5 (53.60 Corsi For versus the Sharks’ 46.12), so it was good to see the Knights only take four penalties in Game 3, as opposed to the 10 they took in Game 2.
The Sharks, however, weren’t quite as disciplined. San Jose was assessed six minor penalties, and the Golden Knights took advantage by scoring on two of their attempts on the man advantage. Strangely enough, the Sharks were one of the league’s best penalty killing teams during the regular season, but have allowed Vegas to go 5-for-18 on the man advantage in just three games.