SAN JOSE, Calif. — Nate Schmidt looks at adversity in two ways.
You can either be desperate to go back to Las Vegas tied 1-1, or you don’t want to go back home down 2-0.
A loss would put the Golden Knights down 2-0 in a series for the first time in franchise history. They lost Game 1 of last season’s Western Conference Final to the Winnipeg Jets before reeling off four consecutive wins en route to the Stanley Cup Final.
“You can never say it won’t be because adversity is how your room takes it,” Schmidt said. “If you take it the right way, if you understand the game is never going to be won in one game, you understand what adversity means to our group.”
The Golden Knights haven’t seen much of adversity in their short tenure as a franchise, but Vegas has shown the ability to respond. They beat the Jets 3-1 in Game 2 at Winnipeg after losing 4-2; Vegas allowed three goals in the first 10 minutes but played well the rest of the way to show confidence in their comeback.
This time, there’s not much for Vegas to be confident about. San Jose dominated from puck drop to the final buzzer in the Sharks’ 5-2 victory on Wednesday. Five San Jose players recorded at least two points, including star defensemen Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
“Desperation definitely rises,” Golden Knights forward Alex Tuch said. “You’re not as comfortable as you were before Game 1, I guess you can say, with how the series is. They have to win three, we have to win four. Desperation definitely kicks in.”
Especially with how the first two periods unfolded for Vegas, the Golden Knights would like to get off to a quicker start in Game 2. Vegas had 10 shots through the first two periods on Wednesday. For the first 25 minutes of the game, it was an even game outside of Joe Pavelski’s goal via his face in the first period.
Then a parade of penalties in the second period, on both teams, turned the tide in San Jose’s favor.
- Jonathan Marchessault called for unsportsmanlike conduct at 5:02
- Brendan Dillon called for roughing at 5:02
- Deryk Engelland called for hooking at 5:48
- Joe Pavelski called for tripping at 6:25
In a rare 3-on-3 stint, the Sharks’ talent was on full display. Burns scored a goal 34 seconds after Pavelski’s power play, then Vlasic’s goal 45 seconds later put the Golden Knights too deep into a hole.
“We weren’t happy with our game,” said Vegas coach Gerard Gallant. “I thought a lot of players could’ve been better, and I expect them to be tonight. It’s a team game. We need everyone going. At playoff time, you’ve got to be ready to go. Adversity is good, and I hope we play our best game tonight.”
The reigning Western Conference champions will need a better all-around game from others not named Mark Stone; the Golden Knights’ prized trade deadline acquisition scored both goals for Vegas on Wednesday. The top line of Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith were held without a point, as was the third line of Cody Eakin, Alex Tuch and Tomas Nosek.
Gallant did not commit to any lineup changes ahead of Game 2, saying there are only game-time decisions to be had. So, no one is sure if Colin Miller will draw in for Nick Holden on the third pairing, or if Nosek will be replaced by Ryan Carpenter or Brandon Pirri.
“We got beat handily the first game,” Schmidt said. “You can’t go much lower than that. If you just take what you learn, try to do the same thing and expect a different result, that’s not Gouda.”
I am here for all the cheese.