Golden Knights defeat Sharks 6-3 in Game 3, take 2-1 series lead

This was a wild one.

The Vegas Golden Knights secured a convincing 6-3 win against the San Jose Sharks Sunday night at T-Mobile Arena, winning their second straight game to grab a 2-1 series lead.

Mark Stone recorded his first career hat trick as the electric second line combined for 12 points and all six goals on the night.

Vegas jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 15 seconds into the game as Stone buried his fourth of the series, giving him goals in all three games thus far.

A risky play at the blue line by Logan Couture backfired, and Stone took full advantage, skating into the offensive zone unimpeded and lifting a perfect backhand shot above Martin Jones’ shoulder.

Exactly 12 minutes later, Max Pacioretty scored on the power play to double Vegas’ lead.

However, despite a mostly dominant period by the Knights, the Sharks got on the board courtesy of Kevin Labanc, who was the beneficiary of a strong play by Joe Thornton behind Vegas’ net.

Gerard Gallant challenged the play for goaltender interference, but the call on the ice stood, bringing San Jose within one after 20 minutes.

Once again, though, the start of the second period couldn’t have gone any better for the Knights.

That’s because Paul Stastny found twine just 21 seconds into the middle frame, re-establishing Vegas’ two-goal lead.

At 3-1, the turning point of the game came later in the second period when Marc-Andre Fleury made a  critical save on Evander Kane.

Kane was in alone on a short-handed breakaway, but Fleury’s diving poke check broke up the scoring chance, and it proved to be a game-changer.

Vegas responded immediately at the other end of the ice with a power-play goal from Stastny, his second of the period. It could have been 3-2; instead, it was 4-1, which was a huge momentum swing in the game.

Stone brought some more quick-strike magic in the third when he grabbed his second of the game just 36 seconds in. That made it a 5-1 game.

But San Jose wasn’t down for the count.

The Sharks bounced back with two goals in 54 seconds as Couture and Timo Meier cut the Sharks’ deficit in half with just over 14 minutes left in the period.

The momentum was completely on San Jose’s side, but ultimately Stone’s hat-trick goal at 13:57 sealed the win for the Knights.

Stastny picked up the primary assist on the play; he and Stone both finished the night with five points, and all three members of the second line scored at least one goal and an assist.

Though the Sharks scored some key goals at the end of the first period and early in the third, Vegas was the better team for most of the night, as seen in the Corsi chart below.

The Knights finished the game with a Corsi For percentage of 53.49 and a High-Danger CF% of 61.11 while holding the edge in shots (40-28) and hits (56-42).

Significantly, Vegas demonstrated discipline for the first time in this series, and strong special-teams play proved to be a key factor in the win as the power play went 2-for-6 while the penalty kill went 2-for-3.

The Knights took a few unnecessary penalties in the third period, and San Jose got right back into the game. Clearly, the intensity of the rivalry went up several notches in Game 3, but the Knights must keep their composure moving forward.

The Sharks, however, were unable to do so at several points in this game.

Most notably, as the Sharks’ frustration grew at the end of the second period, Thornton delivered a very questionable hit to the head of Tomas Nosek.

It only resulted in a minor penalty, but it’s certainly something Player Safety will take a look at.

Should Thornton receive supplementary discipline, San Jose could be without one defenseman (Marc-Edouard Vlasic) and two forwards in Game 4, as Michael Haley exited the game after blocking a shot.

It was Vegas’ best performance of the postseason, but the Knights will need to be just as good or better in a critical Game 4 on Tuesday night.

If the end of Game 3 is any indication, Game 4 should be quite the battle.