That was close. The San Jose Sharks scored three goals in 6:09 minutes of game time, bringing them within one goal of overcoming a 4-0 Vegas Golden Knights lead. Then Jonathan Marchessault got the empty-netter, sealing the deal for the Golden Knights. Vegas now leads the series 3-2 as the Knights head back to San Jose.
The Golden Knights didn’t score until the 19:57 of the first period, when James Neal got a rebound off a Shea Theodore shot. The Golden Knights followed that up with an excellent second period, with a goal from Alex Tuch on the power play...
Tic-tac-toe and then Alex Tuch finishes it. pic.twitter.com/cz2NZUvOAv— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 5, 2018
...and Erik Haula at even-strength.
Perron actually misfired his pass attempt to Haula, but it didn't matter. What a goal. pic.twitter.com/GxX0PnR8lB— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 5, 2018
Tuch then scored again to give the Golden Knights a 4-0 lead.
GOAL!!! Alex Tuch makes it 4-0!! pic.twitter.com/TfeHbInJip— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 5, 2018
Then, after Martin Jones got pulled, chaos reigned. Kevin Labanc scored on San Jose’s third of three straight power play opportunities.
No shutout tonight, folks. Labanc finally gets San Jose on the board. pic.twitter.com/c5Qcu1kYKo— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 5, 2018
Just 2:09 later, Tomas Hertl added to that, making it 4-2. That’s when T-Mobile Arena got quiet. The Knights did their best to get themselves back in the game, but then their lead was cut to just one goal.
Marc-Andre Fleury was 11:25 away from a shutout. Discipline again was the defining marker in this game. Two back-to-back penalties by Theodore almost ruined the game, and it cost him most of his shifts in the third period.
The Golden Knights will need to reclaim their discipline in Game 6 if they want to take this series. They played one of their best games until halfway through the third period, and that needs to continue. Take the lessons learned in the final 10 minutes and apply them.
Major credit goes to Oscar Lindberg, Luca Sbisa and Ryan Carpenter. They were fresh legs and it showed. The new-look third line (Cody Eakin, Tuch and Lindberg) was a major factor in this game. Sbisa was not on-ice for a goal against until there was under five minutes left, and Carpenter was a force to be reckoned with.
The third line was actually the second-best for the Golden Knights (only behind the first) in terms of possession stats. Eakin came in fifth on the team in terms of shot percentage, and both Lindberg and Tuch were above 55 percent. That line also produced a goal and several high-danger chances — two for Tuch, one for Lindberg.
Sbisa was on ice for two goals and only one against, and finished the game with no giveaways. He earned time on the penalty kill unit again, and played well there.
The Golden Knights played so much better for 50 minutes, and that’s clear in the possession chart below:
It’s clear where the shift in possession is. It’s noticeable when the Golden Knights took the foot off the gas. They won games throughout the season by not doing that. It’s what helped them succeed. So to see them do that was disappointing (and dangerous).
Vegas also did a better job at keeping San Jose out of the high-danger areas. The heat map shows some blips, but that’s mostly due to the late goals and shots to create those goals.
The Sharks took shots from all over the place, but they were outshot by Vegas and finally beaten in the meaningful areas. Apart from a few shots in tight, Vegas completely kept San Jose out of the slot, an area that often proves dangerous for Flower (or any netminder, really). This is the style with which Vegas should have been playing throughout this series, and while the dramatic ending kept things close, Vegas thoroughly dominated the rest of the game.
Their speed returned, as did their ability to get to the high-percentage areas, and their ability to get rebounds. That’s what helped Vegas win this game, and if they’re able to do it in Game 6, it will help them win the series.