The Vegas Golden Knights had a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead on the San Jose Sharks Tuesday night. And thanks to a severe lack of discipline from the Sharks, Vegas wound up doing just that, beating San Jose 5-0 for their first shutout victory of the postseason.
With San Jose accumulating nearly two full periods worth of penalty minutes, Vegas connected twice on the power play and three other times at even strength. While the score looks great on paper, though, this certainly wasn’t the best game we’ve seen out of Vegas this series. Thankfully, the one they call Flower stepped up and put together a masterful performance to keep the Sharks off the board.
Perfection from Fleury
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was a star in Game 4 — particularly in the contest’s first two periods. Fleury turned aside all 26 shots thrown in his direction through 40 minutes, and, in the third period, only faced a pair of shots from the free-falling Sharks.
“[Fleury] was the best player for sure,” said Knights head coach Gerard Gallant. “They had some real good chances and he had to make some quality saves. Sometimes your goalie gets a shutout and it’s a team shutout, but tonight was a Fleury shutout.”
This wasn’t just an ordinary shutout for Fleury, though. It was his 15th shutout in an NHL postseason game, tying him with legendary netminders Chris Osgood and Clint Benedict for fourth place all-time.
“It is really cool,” said Fleury of tying Osgood and Benedict. “I have been very fortunate to play on a lot of good teams and again this year. It is very humbling to be amongst these guys who I grew up watching.”
As Fleury continues to perform at a high level for the Golden Knights, goaltender Martin Jones has been nothing short of abysmal for San Jose. After allowing six goals in Game 3, Jones gave up a pair of scores on just seven shots in the first period of Tuesday night’s tilt. Following the first intermission, backup netminder Aaron Dell took over in the cage, and Jones stayed out of sight for the rest of the night.
This marks the second time Jones has been pulled in favor of Dell in the last three games. Overall, he’s been yanked an alarming six times in 16 games — regular season or postseason — against the Golden Knights. In his last three outings, he has allowed 11 goals on 54 shots for a putrid .796 save percentage.
After Game 4, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer did not shy away from showing his frustration with the team’s two goaltenders.
“[Jones] has to be better. He’s got to be better,” said DeBoer. “Both of our goalies have to be better.”
Second line continues to dominate
Vegas’ second line of Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Mark Stone went absolutely berserk in Game 3, combining for a total of 12 points in the contest. While the trio failed to register 12 points in Game 4 (understandable, I suppose), they did keep the momentum going by having a hand in four of Vegas’ five goals.
Pacioretty finished the night with four points, including a pair of scores (the first two-goal postseason game of his career), while Stone picked up a couple helpers as well. Paul Stastny was the only member of the line to be held off of the scoresheet.
The Golden Knights’ first line was regarded as one of the best lines in hockey during last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the same argument can probably be made about the Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone line this year.
“They are playing really well,” said Gallant. “They’re playing support hockey. They’re shooting pucks and they’re getting time and space. When you play against top players it’s pretty hard to defend every time so when they get chances and when they’re shooting the puck like they’re shooting. They’re in a grove right now and they are just playing well.”
Sharks lose composure (again)
Much of the focus going into Tuesday night’s tilt was the back-and-forth banter between Vegas’ Ryan Reaves and San Jose’s Evander Kane. The two have been going at it all series, and in Game 3, they finally dropped the gloves and chucked fists.
That obviously wasn’t enough to squash the beaf, though. Kane stirred the pot a little extra Tuesday morning, unloading on Reaves following their Game 3 scrap by comparing him to a WWE character and calling him a “clown” with a subpar hockey IQ — among other things.
In Game 4, though, Reaves wound up getting the last laugh. Not only did his team pull out the shutout victory, but Kane was given a game misconduct in the third period after punching Knights defenseman Colin Miller in the face.
Kane singlehandedly picked up 16 penalty minutes, but he wasn’t the only San Jose player to lose control — Timo Meier was also assessed a match penalty. In total, the Sharks accumulated a whopping 38 penalty minutes, giving Vegas nine opportunities on the power play.
It’s no question that Reaves is getting in Sharks players’ heads, and Joe Pavelski admitted it after the game.
“Reaves is doing his job. He’s got us fired up at times,” said Pavelski. “We know what he is. He calls himself the lion in the jungle. He just tries to bait a few guys in and he enjoys it while he’s doing it. Give him credit. For us, that can’t happen.”
Knights can play better
It’s not often you see a team play a sloppy game and still win 5-0 against a star-studded group like the Sharks, but Vegas did just that in Game 4. While penalties primarily plagued San Jose, it was actually the Knights dealing with penalty troubles early on (three penalties in the first period alone).
“We weren’t happy with our game,” said Gallant. “Obviously, we got out to the 1-0 lead in the first shift, so that was big, but we didn’t play our type of game for two periods.”
“We just need to forget about this win,” said Pacioretty. “Yeah, it’s nice to get it, but at the same time, it was a bit of a sloppy game. A lot of penalties both ways, so it was a special teams battle. You’re happy that you win that battle, but there are some areas that we want to clean up and I am sure that they feel the same. We are going into their rink next game and we know that from the start they are going to give it their all, so we need to be ready for that and we need to match their intensity next game.”