A combination of a strong penalty kill and the play of Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 34 saves on 37 shots, saved the Knights on a night where they took far too many penalties.
The Golden Knights got off to a hot start, scoring the first three goals of the game in the first seven minutes, starting with Cody Eakin less than a minute into the game.
GOAL. Just the start the Golden Knights needed. Cody Eakin scores 58 seconds in. pic.twitter.com/57OMdiUqed— x-Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 13, 2019
Colin Miller made an excellent play after taking a penalty to get a short-handed goal at 4:37. Max Pacioretty would follow with his first goal of the series 94 seconds later, stunning the crowd by scoring Vegas’ third unanswered goal and chasing Martin Jones from the crease.
GOAL. Max Pacioretty makes it 3-0. Fantastic start to Game 2. pic.twitter.com/ubK3PqCHSh— x-Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 13, 2019
However, Vegas’ impressive first-period lead dissolved because of more penalties. The Knights were shorthanded five times, and San Jose even had a 5-on-3 in the first period alone. Ten penalty minutes in a 20-minute period is unacceptable, and it cost the Golden Knights dearly, especially since two goals were a result of the same Miller cross-checking minor.
Erik Karlsson was crucial to San Jose’s comeback, getting two assists on the first two goals, including this Tomas Hertl goal:
GOAL. Erik Karlsson makes it 3-2 on the power play. Horrible turn of events for Vegas here. pic.twitter.com/yYPSacChSt— x-Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 13, 2019
Joe Thornton capped off the comeback with this goal:
GOAL. Joe Thornton scores on the redirection to make it 3-3. Knights had a 3-0 lead just minutes ago. pic.twitter.com/iaRDutjVu2— x-Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 13, 2019
But that would be the last goal San Jose got in the game.
In the second period, Vegas came back with a much more disciplined game that also allowed them to play better defensively. The Golden Knights took four penalty minutes (still not great, but definitely better) and killed both penalties.
Mark Stone scored the only goal of the period, netting his third goal of the series just 1:31 into the middle frame on a Vegas power play.
GOAL. Mark Stone scores his third goal of the postseason. Knights take the 4-3 lead. pic.twitter.com/wNTBOHPbN0— x-Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 13, 2019
In the third, William Karlsson scored the lone goal, a short-handed breakaway beauty at 7:35. It was set up by a perfect pass from Reilly Smith, and it wound up sealing the 5-3 victory for Vegas.
GOAL. William Karlsson scores Vegas' second shorthanded goal of the game to make it 5-3. pic.twitter.com/bP3ILjYh4h— x-Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 13, 2019
Until the third period, this game went the same way as Game 1. Vegas controlled play at 5-on-5, but had a hard time staying out of the box.
Through 40 minutes, Vegas held a 14-11 shot share and 6-5 high-danger share. The third period changed that, as Vegas got trapped in their own zone, allowing 10 shots against at 5-on-5 but taking just three.
The Golden Knights had better special team units in this game, however, and that was the deciding factor. Vegas got three shots and a high-danger chance in less than three minutes on the power play.
Shorthanded, Vegas had a 21.43 percent shot share and 22.22 percent high-danger share. Considering the fact that it’s the penalty kill, those numbers were very good.
Ultimately, though, Vegas faces the same problem as it did in Game 1 — discipline has to be better. The Golden Knights were fantastic when shorthanded, but they can’t be shorthanded 20 minutes a night and give up eight power plays each game and expect to take this series.
Five Golden Knights defensemen took at least one penalty in this game. Mark Stone and Tomas Nosek, mainstays on the penalty kill, were also sent to the box. That’s something the Golden Knights need to crack down on.
Colin Miller was the lone lineup change coming into this game, and he had a game of ups and downs. He took the most penalty minutes on the team with four, but scored a shorthanded goal. He played well when he was on the ice, but during those four penalty minutes, the Sharks scored two goals.
Still, with zero high-danger chances and zero goals given up (and with the additional offense Miller provides), fixing the penalty problem is still worth the investment to keep him in the lineup.
Nikita Gusev, in the running for KHL MVP two years in a row, secured his release from SKA in the KHL and is now on his way to Vegas. It’s possible he could play in Game 3, though that’s no guarantee. That’s a definite shakeup in the bottom six, but potentially a good one.
The series now shifts back to Vegas for two games, including Game 3 Sunday night. Vegas now holds home-ice advantage in the series.