When the Golden Knights scored the first goal of the night 94 seconds into the game, there was instant concern that the Sharks would suffer another smackdown in Sin City.
But Team Teal didn’t let Vegas run away with this one. It was an absolute battle, but the Sharks managed to get their first regular-season victory at T-Mobile Arena, 3-2.
Here are three takeaways from Thursday’s game:
You have to like the Sharks’ response
San Jose prevented Vegas from scoring a ton of goals like they did in their last meeting with the Golden Knights. They also held off Vegas’ power play, which was important, given San Jose’s penalty kill hadn’t been quite as sharp over its last stretch of games. But, most importantly, the Sharks settled down after giving up that first goal and began pushing back against the tough Golden Knights squad.
It didn’t look at first like the pushback was working, since the Sharks only tallied one shot on goal through more than half of the second stanza. That is, until the Kane-Hertl-Donskoi contingent kept their hot streak alive and Hertl beat Marc-Andre Fleury to tie the score at 1. That line then kept rolling to give the Sharks their first lead of the game in the third period.
Birthday Boy made the big saves
Martin Jones deserve a lot of props for his outing, as he was tested way more than Fleury on the other end of the ice. Jones buckled down after letting that first goal get by him just a little over a minute into the contest, making some very important saves that kept Vegas from adding to their lead early in the game.
Jones also had some nice support from his teammates in front of him. Thursday’s game ended up being a very defense-heavy event, with neither team giving the other a ton of room to work. On the couple of instances the Sharks did get hemmed into their own zone, they gave Jones room to make key saves.
It certainly was unfortunate for San Jose when traffic in front of him prevented him from seeing Jon Merrill’s go-ahead goal at the start in the third period. But boy did Jones make up for it when the Golden Knights got that late-game power play.
So if these teams see each other in the playoffs …
… it probably will be a great series. But it also will be a blood bath. The Golden Knights play a heavy game and bring out that same kind of play out of the Sharks. In both games against Vegas, San Jose has registered a record number of hits.
Heading into Thursday’s contest, the idea of playing a playoff series against the Golden Knights sounded incredibly unappealing to the Sharks -- especially with how bad their last game was against the new Pacific Division foe. While San Jose still has things to work on if it's going to defeat Vegas in a long series, Thursday’s game definitely was encouraging.