The Sharks’ third-period comeback fell short, and San Jose is now a game away from elimination after the Vegas Golden Knights picked up a 5-3 win, and a 3-2 series lead, in Game 5 on Friday night.
The Sharks trailed by four goals after Alex Tuch chased Martin Jones with just under 11-and-a-half minutes remaining in the third period. Kevin Labanc cut the lead to one about a minute later with San Jose's lone power-play goal.
With 9:16 remaining in regulation, the mini-comeback was on. Tomas Hertl scored 129 seconds after Labanc to make it a two-goal deficit, burying Mikkel Boedker's pass into the top corner past a prone Marc-Andre Fleury. It was Hertl's team-leading sixth goal of the postseason.
Boedker himself got the Sharks within a goal five minutes later. He gathered a loose puck onto his forehand, lifted a shot over a sprawling Fleury, and scored his first goal of the playoffs.
That was as close as San Jose would get, as Vegas clamped down defensively and limited the Sharks to two shot attempts over the final four-and-a-half minutes, Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault iced the game with an empty-net goal to regain the two-goal advantage with 1:21 remaining.
Vegas jumped out to a 4-0 lead thanks to two goals from Alex Tuch, and one apiece from James Neal and Erik Haula. Neal scored with three seconds remaining in the first period, capping off a 20-minute stretch in which the Golden Knights held a clear edge in five-on-five shot attempts (28-19), shots (15-7), and scoring chances (13-7).
Fleury wasn’t challenged much early, but made a game-changing save when he was. He turned the puck over behind his net in the first period, but the netminder recovered quickly to deny Mikkel Boedker from in close and keep the game scoreless.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic picked up high-sticking and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the final minute, while Brenden Dillon and Deryk Engelland were each sent off for a 10-minute misconduct seconds later.
Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant moved David Perron to the second line, and Perron rewarded his faith. Perron picked up a pair of assists for the second time this series.
His puck work kept the play alive on the first, and his hard pass created space for Haula on the second. Neither goal stood as the winner, but he helped Vegas jump out to a big lead early on.
The series heads back to San Jose for a potentially decisive Game 6 on Sunday. Puck drops on NBCSN at 4:30 p.m, followed by a postgame edition of Sharks Playoff Central on NBC Sports California immediately after the final horn.