The Vegas Golden Knights got their first taste of overtime hockey this postseason, but it certainly left a sour taste as the San Jose Sharks came out on top with a 2-1 win in double overtime in Game 6 Sunday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Tomas Hertl scored the game-winning goal for the Sharks 11:17 into double overtime; San Jose was shorthanded on the play.
Despite a dominant effort by Vegas, the play of Sharks’ netminder Martin Jones was the difference in this game. He kept the game tied through 90-plus minutes of hockey, making a franchise-record 58 saves and finishing the game with a .983 save percentage.
The best-of-seven series is now tied at 3-3 despite the fact that Vegas held a 3-1 lead after four games. These teams will take part in a winner-takes-all Game 7 Tuesday night in San Jose.
It’s hard not to feel the gut punch that this game represented. Vegas had its second opportunity to put the Sharks away but failed to do so despite dominating the game early and often. Now both teams have the same number of victories and both stand one win away from advancing to round two.
San Jose opened the scoring in Game 6 when Logan Couture gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead with just eight seconds remaining in the first period.
GOAL. Logan Couture scores with six seconds remaining in the first period. You'll never guess who was caught out of position in the neutral zone! pic.twitter.com/lHOOeYmFD7— x-Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 21, 2019
Deryk Engelland made a critical mistake on the play, much like in Game 5, and got caught out of position. This has become a running theme, and it’s a concerning one for Vegas.
Even so, it was still just a one-goal game, and Vegas continued to control possession in the middle frame. Sure enough, the Golden Knights fired back when Jonathan Marchessault evened it up at 1-1 at 11:20 of the second period. It was the first line’s first even-strength goal of the series.
Great job by Marchessault using his skate to keep this puck within reach. pic.twitter.com/N6AW1nOSQv— x-Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 22, 2019
The first line has played hard but hasn’t seen results, especially at even strength. But Marchessault did everything he could on this play, and it finally paid off. Not only was it a huge goal, but it was great to see the top line score on a play that wasn’t a fluke or a shorthanded breakaway.
But Marchessault’s tally was followed by nearly an hour of scoreless hockey.
Players committed, energy was expended and sacrifices were made in the pursuit of victory, and it made for entertaining hockey.
Even though neither team could find twine, there were plenty of chances, the craziest of which came in the first overtime when two Vegas defensemen were forced to make a game-saving stop.
HOW THE HELL DID THIS STAY OUT pic.twitter.com/2OxDfB35Jx— x-Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 22, 2019
The puck got behind Fleury after he made a save at the top of the crease, but Jon Merrill and Colin Miller were there to save the day.
JON MERRILL AND COLIN MILLER TO THE RESCUE pic.twitter.com/NUIXp7wru8— x-Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 22, 2019
One surprising aspect of the game was that there were just four minor penalties through 60 minutes, which was extremely uncharacteristic of this series.
But it was clear from the start of overtime that the referees had put their whistles away, and both teams got away with several infractions that would have been obvious calls in regulation. Or at least that’s how it was until Barclay Goodrow slashed the stick out of Brayden McNabb’s hands at 10:46 of double overtime, which landed him in the sin bin.
Vegas was headed to the power play with a chance to put the game and series away.
But that’s not how things turned out.
Instead, Hertl, who came out after Game 5 and guaranteed that the Sharks would force a Game 7, did just that.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who played a key role in San Jose’s 5-2 win in Game 5, sent the puck up the middle of the ice to Hertl, who skated into the zone virtually uncontested. Shea Theodore seemingly stopped skating on the play, and Hertl made him pay, beating Marc-Andre Fleury in a stunning turn of events to give the Sharks the 2-1 win.
Tomas Hertl scores shorthanded to win it in double overtime. pic.twitter.com/6qZfAS6AEA— x-Knights On Ice (@knightsonice) April 22, 2019
Hertl became the first player in NHL history to score a game-winning shorthanded goal in a game that required multiple overtimes.
It was an especially surprising end to a game in which Vegas played so well.
Much of regulation was a back-and-forth contest between two teams eager to get the win. The Golden Knights dominated in both hits and shots, holding 59-27 and 44-20 edges in the two categories, respectively. High-danger chances (12-8 in Vegas’ favor) as well as scoring chances (22-20, also in Vegas’s favor) were much closer at even strength.
But the Corsi chart below tells you all you really need to know about how Vegas played tonight:
Vegas managed Corsi For percentages of 63.89, 60.47 and 68.57 in the first three periods, respectively, and 51.15 and 94.12 in the two overtimes, respectively.
The first line of Reilly Smith, Marchessault and William Karlsson had its best game of the series with a 66.67 percent Corsi and 71.43 percent shot share.
The line was dominant but still only managed one goal. Every other Vegas line was close behind, with the Paul Stastny trio bringing up the rear with a 56.25 percent shot share.
But as dominant as Vegas was, Jones was the difference in this game. Like Fleury, who finished the game with 27 saves and a .931 save percentage, Jones wasn’t forced to make difficult saves too often, as evidenced in the heat map below.
But he faced a ton of rubber, and his record-setting night was an impressive performance, especially by a goalie who has struggled all year.
After Game 4, Jones disappeared. Literally. People didn’t know where he was, he wasn’t available for media coverage and many jokes were made. But since then, he’s become a different player and has turned this series around.
Vegas, on the other hand, has seen its red-hot second line vanish from the scoresheet, and no one in the bottom six can get much of anything going.
Though Jones has struggled against the Knights over the last two years, he is starting to play the way he did when he helped lead the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016.
If the Knights want to keep their season alive, they will have to find a way to break through in Game 7.