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Round 1, Game 1: Golden Knights suffer 5-2 loss to Sharks, trail series 1-0

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Mark Stone scored two goals, but Vegas’ lack of discipline was costly.

Vegas Golden Knights v San Jose Sharks - Game One Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Vegas Golden Knights stumbled out of the gate in their postseason opener, losing 5-2 to the San Jose Sharks Wednesday night at SAP Center.

San Jose now leads the best-of-seven series 1-0.

A three-goal second period for San Jose, which included a goal in the final 18 seconds of the frame, put this game out of reach for the Knights, who managed just 10 shots through two periods of play (26 on the night).

Vegas was outplayed for most of the night, and it started early.

The one thing Vegas could not afford to do was take penalties against this team, and San Jose hammered home the concept by converting on their first opportunity on the man advantage nearly 15 minutes into the opening frame.

A failed clear by Paul Stastny led to a point shot by Brent Burns, which hit Joe Pavelski in the jaw on its way behind Marc-Andre Fleury and into the net.

Pavelski is known for his deflections, but that’s probably not what he had in mind. Either way, the power-play marker gave San Jose a 1-0 lead at 14:42 of the first.

It could have been more costly than helpful for San Jose, but Pavelski returned to the bench for the second period sporting a full face shield.

The Knights were fortunate to escape an ugly opening frame trailing by just one. But while the first period may have been uneventful, the second was jam-packed with action.

A bizarre sequence involving several penalties led to a rare 3-on-3 opportunity in the second, and Burns took full advantage, doubling the Sharks’ lead with a snapshot that beat Fleury glove-side.

Just 45 seconds later, Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored to make it 3-0 Sharks at 7:44 of the middle frame.

There was nothing Fleury could do on the play as he was completely screened by Jon Merrill.

But the Knights weren’t phased.

In fact, just 48 seconds after that, Mark Stone gave Vegas life with a huge goal, making it a 3-1 game.

Stone was acquired at the deadline for exactly this reason, and he couldn’t have been more excited about it.

But the Sharks had the last laugh of the period as Evander Kane gave San Jose a commanding 4-1 lead with 17.1 seconds left in the frame, capping off a three-goal period for the Sharks.

The Knights generated several prime scoring opportunities early in the third but were unable to get anything going until Stone scored his second of the game, making it a 4-2 contest with 4:34 left in the game.

Stone’s goal gave Vegas life once again, and the Knights responded with some of their best chances of the night, coming incredibly close to making it a one-goal game in the final three minutes of the third.

But Martin Jones, who hadn’t been tested much at all, came up with a huge save at a critical time. Tomas Hertl then scored an empty-net goal to seal the 5-2 win for San Jose at 18:11.

At the end of the day, the Sharks were by far the better team and deserved to win this game.

San Jose managed Corsi For percentages of 56.67 and 65.38 in the first and second periods, respectively, which is when the Sharks did the bulk of their scoring.

However, that doesn’t paint a fully accurate picture of the game. After all, those numbers only reflect 5-on-5 play, and that’s not how San Jose won this game.

The true story of the game was discipline, and the Knights didn’t have any.

Despite the incessant boo’s raining down from the crowd, there were some calls the referees missed, including in the first period.

A Ryan Reaves cross-check went unnoticed, and Merrill should have been given a four-minute penalty for high-sticking when he clipped Timo Meier. That’s not to say there weren’t missed calls going the other way, but the fact of the matter is that Vegas didn’t play a disciplined game, and it was a huge factor in the loss.

The Sharks scored one 5-on-5 goal; so did the Knights. It was the other three goals (four including the empty-netter) that were the difference. The ironic part is that San Jose went 1-for-5 on the power play, but just like in last year’s second-round series, anything other than 5-on-5 play against the Sharks leads to bad results.

Not including the two misconducts awarded to Tomas Nosek and Reaves in the final minute of the game, Vegas took 14 minutes worth of penalties on the night. That’s not going to cut it.

Also, it’s difficult to win hockey games, let alone playoff games, when you have 10 shots on goal through 40 minutes. This is especially true against a goalie coming off the worst season of his career.

The Knights failed to test Jones, who has struggled mightily against Vegas over the last two seasons. He still came up with some key saves, stopping 24 of 26 shots on the night for a .923 save percentage.

But while Vegas did put up a fight in the third period, it was too little, too late.

Also, if there was any doubt about Erik Karlsson headed into Game 1, he put that to rest with a very impressive performance in his first postseason game with the Sharks. Karlsson finished the game with two assists, one of which was a stellar feed that set up Kane’s crushing late-period goal, and a 56.25 Corsi For percentage in 26:25 of ice time.

The good news for Vegas is that while he gave up four goals on 32 shots, Fleury played quite well and came up with some huge saves reminiscent of last year’s playoff run, including this one when the game was 1-0.

The Knights will need Flower at his best moving forward.

Another positive takeaway is that there are some easy fixes the Knights can make that should go a long way towards improving their chances in Game 2.

For one thing, the Knights have to show more discipline. There’s no way around that. For another, Vegas needs to test Jones early and often. Also, Vegas’ signature forecheck was lacking in tonight’s game, which is yet another thing that needs to be adjusted over the next 48 hours.

It’s not as though Vegas put forth its best effort and came up short. The Knights came close to making it 4-3 even after one of their worst games of the season, which bodes well moving forward in the series.

The Knights will have a chance to even things up Friday night in what should be another chippy game in San Jose before the series heads back to Vegas for Game 3 on Sunday.