The Sharks entered tonight’s game facing elimination, so it was always going to be a tough game for the Knights, though they didn’t do themselves any favors.
Defensive lapses led to two critical goals, and Marc-Andre Fleury had an uncharacteristically “off” game, making just 24 saves on 28 shots for an .857 save percentage.
The Sharks took a page out of Vegas’ playbook when they kicked off the scoring with a goal from Tomas Hertl just 76 seconds into the game.
GOAL. Tomas Hertl scores just over a minute in to give San Jose the 1-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/74whTUCj6l— x-Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 19, 2019
Logan Couture made it a 2-0 game about ten minutes later when he finished off a great play by Timo Meier, who completely schooled Deryk Engelland as he drove to the net.
However, Reilly Smith cut Vegas’ deficit in half with a late power-play goal with just 30 seconds left in the opening frame. Smith took advantage of a very fortunate bounce, but it was a huge goal for the Knights headed into intermission.
Rather atypical, but we're not complaining. pic.twitter.com/UqYGZnshLL— x-Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 19, 2019
The Knights proceeded to struggle in the second period, to the tune of a 20-11 Corsi ratio. They were fortunate to escape having given up just one goal against as Barclay Goodrow scored his first career postseason goal 12:22 into the frame.
Notably, the second period also featured one of the Knights’ most important penalty kills of the series and perhaps one of the craziest sequences in franchise history. The grand finale occurred when Brayden McNabb fell into the crease and miraculously kept the puck out of the net.
McNabb became a secondary goaltender and ended up eating a puck to keep the Knights in the game.
Not sure if you knew this, but Brayden McNabb is actually a goalie. pic.twitter.com/ODvk8QdQT7— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) April 19, 2019
Just like in Game 4, the Knights came out strong in the third period and owned possession, which eventually led to a key goal from Jonathan Marchessault, who pulled Vegas within one when he scored 11:36 into the period. It was Vegas’ second power-play goal of the game.
GOAL. Jonathan Marchessault goes five-hole to make it a one-score game. pic.twitter.com/O42gSV5Cw8— x-Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 19, 2019
Marchessault whistled the puck in from a distance, and that should have been the momentum-changer Vegas needed.
After that goal, however, there was a somewhat controversial call that ended up being a key turning point in the game, ending Vegas’ momentum and Vegas’ chances of a comeback at the same time.
Marchessault clipped Couture with a high stick and was eventually assessed a two-minute penalty, though it was a late call on the ice as the referees seemingly missed the play.
Jonathan Marchessault knocks out a couple of Logan Couture's teeth. pic.twitter.com/uE0vDypbiX— x-Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 19, 2019
Hertl quickly capitalized on the ensuing power play, netting his second of the game to give the Sharks a commanding 4-2 lead with just over five minutes left in the third.
GOAL. Tomas Hertl scores on the power play. Knights trail by two with a little over five minutes to go. pic.twitter.com/cI2HsGEvoU— x-Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 19, 2019
Gerard Gallant was none too pleased with the officiating.
Your thoughts on the officiating tonight, Gerard Gallant? pic.twitter.com/y10uKAJFLc— x-Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 19, 2019
Joe Pavelski later scored the empty-net goal to seal the 5-2 win for San Jose.
While Fleury and the defense did not perform well enough in this game, the offense’s play at 5-on-5 was lacking as well.
The Golden Knights generated just 10 high-danger chances throughout the game and fell behind in expected goals with 3.85 for San Jose compared to just 2.66 for Vegas.
The only aspect of Vegas’ game that came to play was the power play; that will need to change in a pivotal Game 6.
In addition, one glaring absence from the scoresheet in tonight’s game was Vegas’ “second” line of Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny. All three were held without a point, as was Shea Theodore, who has been very productive throughout the series. Colin Miller and William Karlsson both had two assists, but losing the most consistent scorers on the team did not help.
The Stastny line totaled just six shots and allowed a goal against. Their expected goal ratio was negative, the only line on the team in the red, at 47.42 percent.
The only truly good line in this game was the Karlsson line, which finally woke up from its extended slumber. While that wasn’t enough to tip the scales in Vegas’ favor in Game 5, it will be extremely beneficial for Vegas if that line can stay awake in Game 6.
Still, the offense didn’t get consistent chances in this game, and that ended up killing Vegas’ hopes of finishing off the Sharks.
Martin Jones’ massive bounce-back performance probably had a lot to do with that, though.
Jones was excellent, finishing the game with a .938 save percentage as he stopped 30 of 32 shots, including this one on Smith shortly after the Knights made it a 3-2 game.
If Smith gets just a little more air under this one, it's a tie game. pic.twitter.com/mXRwkbIoNH— x-Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 19, 2019
His performance was reminiscent of his 2016 postseason play, which was the year the Sharks went to the Stanley Cup Final. Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer went back to Jones even after he was pulled in Game 4, and it paid off in spades for San Jose.
The series shifts back to Vegas for Game 6 on Sunday. It may not be a true do-or-die situation for Vegas, but it’s a must-win game for both teams.