After a subpar showing in Game 1, the Vegas Golden Knights responded in Game 2 with a big 5-3 win in the San Jose Sharks’ barn. Sunday night, Vegas looked to keep the momentum going in their first game at T-Mobile Arena, and they did just that, taking down the Sharks 6-3 in what turned out to be another heated contest.
Another quick start for Vegas
The Golden Knights wasted no time getting on the board early in Game 2. Just 58 seconds in, forward Cody Eakin gave Vegas a 1-0 lead, and that lead wound up being tripled not long after the six-minute mark in the opening period.
Vegas had a similar start in Game 3. Just 16 seconds into the contest, Mark Stone beat Sharks goaltender Martin Jones with a wicked backhander to give the Knights the quick lead. But it wasn’t only the first period that Vegas struck early, though. It was every period. Paul Stastny gave Vegas the 3-1 lead just 21 seconds into the middle period and Stone scored another goal just 36 seconds into the third frame.
The last time a team scored in the first minute of each period? Way back on April 9 of 1981 when the Boston Bruins’ Brad Park, Peter McNab and Don Marcotte all netted goals in the opening minute of the first, second and third period, respectively. Surprisingly, the Bruins ended up losing that game.
Knights can’t relate!
Second line goes on scoring rampage
Speaking of that Mark Stone goal, that wasn’t the end of his scoring in Game 3. Far from it, in fact. Stone went on to score three goals — the first hat trick of his career, regular season or postseason.
While Stone was responsible for over 18,000 people throwing their hats on the ice, though, his linemates had an equally impressive night. Max Pacioretty scored on the power play for Vegas’ second goal of the game and Paul Stastny, who had yet to find twine in this series, netted a pair while picking up three helpers in the process.
Overall, Vegas’ second line accumulated a grand total of 12 (!) points on the night. The Sharks had a boatload of trouble with the trio of Stone, Stastny and Pacioretty, and that’s been a common theme recently.
“They’ve eaten us up here in this series so far. We haven’t had an answer for them,” said Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer after the game. “What do they do well? I mean, you have three very good players who are playing at a really high level right now. That is part of the issue. We have to find a way to slow those guys down.”
Knights stay out of the box (Sharks, not so much)
The Golden Knights had a hard time staying out of the box in Game 2. Miraculously, they still managed to get a victory out of it, but that’s a rare feat when the opposing team is awarded eight opportunities on the power play.
Sunday night, the tables turned. This time, it was the Sharks who couldn’t stay out of the sin bin. San Jose accumulated 21 penalty minutes, giving Vegas a total of six opportunities on the man advantage (Vegas converted on two of them).
“Too many penalties,” said DeBoer. “I think the ones in the first period put us on our heels right at the start of the game, and they weren’t frustration penalties. It’s a four-minute high-stick, [Evander Kane] tried to lift [William Carrier’s] stick and catches him, and then shooting one over the glass. Those are unfortunate things, that happens to everybody. It kind of snowballed on us in the first and we had trouble recovering.”
When asked how his team handled its emotions Sunday night, DeBoer ended his presser early. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski admitted, though, that his team was “not good enough” at keeping their composure.
Thornton out for Game 4?
Late in the middle period, San Jose’s Joe Thornton was sent to the penalty box for an illegal check to the head of Knights forward Tomas Nosek. After reviewing the hit, it’s very possible Thornton could be hearing from the Department of Player Safety.
It was ugly.
“They’ll look at it for sure. There’s no doubt,” said Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant. “Definitely a high hit to the head. They’ll look at it, and we’ll see what happens.”
As malicious as it may have looked on replay, however, Thornton defended his hit on Nosek after the game.
Full Thornton quote on hitting Nosek: "I honestly thought I barely touched him. He came right back. It was just one of those plays, it is what it is. I think my son hits me like that six times a day. Just a weird position he put himself in, that's all."#SJSharks #VegasBorn— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) April 15, 2019
This wasn’t the only time Thornton laid a questionable hit on a Knights player in Game 3. Earlier in the second frame, Thornton blindsided Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault long after the whistle blew. Believe it or not, Thornton was not penalized for this hit.
Thornton, even at 39 years old, remains a key contributor for the Sharks. If he does end up missing time for his hit on Nosek, it could be a gut punch for San Jose ahead of Game 4.
Sharks still finding ways to keep games interesting
Though the Golden Knights have come out victorious in each of the series’ last two games, the Sharks always seem to find ways to stick around.
After Vegas took a 3-0 lead in Game 2, the Sharks stormed back late in the first period to tie the game up at three goals apiece. A similar lull occurred in Game 3. With Vegas ahead 5-1 early in the final frame, San Jose netted a pair of goals separated by just one minute to cut the Knights’ lead in half. At that point, Vegas pretty much had the game in hand. But still, it’s best to avoid playing with fire in the postseason.
“I think every team has a little bit of a lull,” said Gallant. “Obviously, I didn’t like them coming back and making it 5-3 in that part of the game, but it happens. And after that we started playing real well again. Got the sixth goal, so that was huge. We’re playing good hockey. Neither team is playing perfect hockey right now, but I think both teams are working hard and competing hard.”