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Golden Knights suffer heartbreaking collapse in 5-4 shootout loss to Sharks, putting season on the brink

San Jose tied the game to force overtime with 0.9 seconds left in regulation.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Vegas Golden Knights Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

The Vegas Golden Knights were in complete control of their destiny.

They led 4-2 late in the third period and were well on their way to defeating the San Jose Sharks for the 12th consecutive time.

But the Sharks were invested in playing spoiler, and they did just that.

San Jose scored two goals in the final 2:06 of regulation, including Timo Meier’s buzzer-beater that crossed the goal line with 0.9 seconds on the clock.

Vegas had an extended power play in extra time but was unable to convert; the Golden Knights went on to lose 1-0 in the shootout for the 5-4 loss.

Not collecting that all-important second point could leave Vegas on the outside looking in of the playoff picture.

Heading into the game, all eyes were on the Vegas crease after several days of mixed messages regarding Robin Lehner’s health. But Lehner did not, in fact, have season-ending surgery, and instead served as Logan Thompson’s backup.

By the end of the night, he was one of several teammates who helped lift Thompson up off the ice after the heartbreaking finish.

As for the game itself, Vegas was in control for much of the contest, though San Jose scored the first and last goals of the night.

Tomas Hertl quieted the home crowd when he opened the scoring with his 30th of the year, giving San Jose a 1-0 lead 11:43 into the contest.

Hertl collected a rebound off a point shot and sent a backhand shot past the outstretched Thompson.

But Vegas struck three minutes later when Chandler Stephenson hit the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career.

Stephenson cleaned up a rebound in front of the net on the power play, beating James Reimer to even things up at 1-1.

Two quick goals in the second period helped Vegas take over the game.

The first came at 7:46 off the stick of Max Pacioretty, who made a great move before beating Reimer short-side.

Just over two minutes later, the Golden Knights lit the lamp again, this time courtesy of the fourth line.

In his first game back after missing a month of action, William Carrier drove to the net and one-timed a feed from Keegan Kolesar for his eighth of the year, giving Vegas a two-goal lead at 9:59 of the second.

Though the Golden Knights had dominated the second period, they gave up a late goal as Nick Bonino, who has found the scoresheet in every game against Vegas this season, deflected a shot to make it 3-2 with just 65 seconds remaining in the frame.

But Nicolas Roy reestablished the two-goal lead 6:35 into the final frame, as William Karlsson protected the puck behind the net before setting up Roy for his 15th of the year.

It appeared as though Vegas had this one in the bag, but the Sharks did not go down without a fight, ultimately scoring two goals with the goalie pulled in the final three minutes of regulation.

Bonino got things started with his second of the night with just 2:06 left in the third.

Then Meier — who was vocal prior to the game about this being the Sharks’ biggest game of the season — silenced the home crowd when he scored on the backdoor with just 0.9 seconds left to force overtime.

The Golden Knights had a 4-on-3 power play for 1:37 in overtime but came up empty. They looked hesitant and failed to put much pressure on San Jose.

Thomas Bordeleau scored the game-winning goal in the third round of the shootout after Roy, Jack Eichel and Shea Theodore were shut down by Reimer.

Though Thompson finished the game with an .862 save percentage, he made multiple clutch stops during the game, including one on a Meier breakaway and another on a follow-up attempt by Alexander Chmelevski in the third period.

Plus, he didn’t get much help clearing pucks or tying up sticks around the paint.

Both of the Sharks’ late goals came off failed clears by Vegas, and Meier was left all alone when he scored the equalizer.

This was a game of missed opportunities.

Mark Stone had a chance to ice the game with an empty-net goal late in the third but hit the post, and the power play was flat with the season on the line.

If this proves to be the difference between Vegas making the playoffs for the fifth time in five years or going home early, that power play — perhaps more than anything — will be difficult to overlook, especially in the context of the 2021-22 season as a whole.

The Golden Knights can still make the playoffs, but the loss means Vegas no longer controls its own destiny. The Golden Knights will need help from Dallas, Nashville or Los Angeles in order to make the cut.

They may have to do so without Kolesar, who suffered an injury late in the second and did not return. Pete DeBoer said after the game that Kolesar will go for testing but that it was “not a good sign that he left the game and didn’t come back.”

Vegas will take on the Stars on Tuesday in the biggest game of the year.