Photo credit: @TheVegasRealm
By Mary Walsh
SAN JOSE–The San Jose Sharks’ season ended with a 3-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights at the SAP Center Sunday. The Game 6 win makes the Golden Knights the third NHL team to win two rounds in the playoffs in their inaugural season. Goals came from Jonathan Marchessault, Nate Schmidt and Cody Eakin. Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves for Vegas’ shutout win. Martin Jones made 30 saves in a losing effort for San Jose.
After the game, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said: “We just didn’t find a way to put any pucks in the net. You know we had some opportunities early, a couple of power plays and some really good looks. And whether a puck spun off or got a skate on it or whatever kind of happened, it was. I think our opportunities early were there to take that lead.”
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer gave his assessment of the series after the game:
We knew their game was for real and I thought there was some swing moments in the series when you win and when you lose. But the bottom line for me is we were just chasing the game. Every game in the series other than the 4-0 win here at home. I thought we had some good starts, had some quality chances early in a lot of those games, and Fleury I thought was great early in a lot of those games, allowed them to get their feet under them and then we’re chasing five of the six games.
Asked about what he thought of the Pavelski, Kane, Donskoi line, DeBoer said:
I’m not dissecting it. I can tell you this, you got a guy who’s playing center that hasn’t played center in years that steps up and plays as the number one center. So you know if you’re going to negatively dissect their play, you’re talking to the wrong guy. You can do that. These guys…. Our number one center went down, these guys jumped in, filled roles didn’t complain, battled their ass off right to the buzzer in every single game even when we were down.
The Sharks were on the power play in the first minute of the game, thanks to a tripping call drawn by Tomas Hertl. The Sharks got two shots during the power play, but the Golden Knights got one on a breakaway for Willam Karlsson.
Just 5:39 into the period, a flurry of activity in front of the Sharks net ended with Martin Jones being pushed into the net as the whistle blew. Evidently the puck crossed the line with the goalie, but an NHL initiated review determined that the whistle had been blown before the puck went in.
Near the nine-minute mark, Tomas Hertl had a breakaway, but hit the crossbar. He retrieved the puck and got it to Logan Couture for a good chance, but that shot did not go in either. A scramble in front of Fleury followed, but the puck still stayed out.
After the next faceoff in the Vegas zone, Brayden McNabb sent the puck over the glass. After an extensive review to see if it touched a Sharks stick, the penalty was called. The Sharks took a couple of good shots before Vegas cleared the puck. Seconds after that penalty expired, Evander Kane was called for tripping Reilly Smith. The Sharks killed that off without letting the power play spend a lot of time in the zone.
At even strength after the power play, it was a different story. The Golden Knights spent a lot of time in the Sharks zone. Their fourth line in particular was very effective.
Despite not spending much time on offense, the Sharks had another good chance off a blue line shot from Joakim Ryan in the last three minutes. Timo Meier reached to push it in, but did not get there. That sequence seemed to energize the Sharks and they held the zone for quite a spell. Brent Burns had a shot deflected by Evander Kane, but it went off the crossbar. It fell at Joonas Donskoi’s feet by the post, but he couldn’t get it over the line either.
The teams finished the period almost even in shots, 12-11 Vegas.
The teams started the second period a little bit slowly, with more than four minutes of play going by before the first shot was counted. It went to Vegas, and another minute of play went by before the Sharks got a shot on goal.
It was the third shot of the period that went in, at 6:33, a goal from the Golden Knights’ Jonathan Marchessault. A failed clear by Marc-Edouard Vlasic ended up on Reilly Smith’s stick. He found Marchessault with an open net. Assists went to Smith and William Karlsson.
The Golden Knights almost scored again at 8:31 left in the first, when Martin Jones came out to stop a shot from Brayden McNabb and was completely out of the net when Smith got a chance at the rebound. Chris Tierney was in the paint and blocked the shot. The Sharks followed it up with good zone time, but all of their shots seemed to hit bodies and skates.
The second Vegas goal came with as little fanfare as a goal can have: most seemed to miss it and play continued. A horn went a few moments later, alerting all that something was wrong. On review, Nate Schmidt scored with a shot from the blue line that hit the post and went off the goal net camera. David Perron won an offensive zone faceoff against Chris Tierney and slid the puck to Eric Haula on the wall. Haula got the puck to Schmidt. The time of the goal was 15:38.
By the halfway mark of the third period, the shot count was 11-3 in favor of Vegas. The Golden Knights did not let up. DeBoer pulled Martin Jones with 2:15 left in the period. The Sharks got a couple of shots in the 15 seconds before Ryan Carpenter and Cody Eakin broke away to score on the empty net. It was Eakin’s third goal of the playoffs and Carpenter’s third assist. An additional assist went to Nate Schmidt.
That was it, except for the handshake.
The schedule for the Western and Eastern conference final rounds are yet to be determined, as the two series (Jets-Predators, Capitals-Penguins) are still ongoing.