SAN JOSE -- For a playoff series that has been promising to be entertaining for some time now, Game 1 between the Sharks and Golden Knights did not disappoint. It was the hard-hitting match everyone expected, although probably much more one-sided than many predicted. The Tank turned the volume up to eleven in the playoff opener, as San Jose defeated Vegas 5-2.
Here are three takeaways from Game 1:
They got the start they needed
There had been plenty of talk leading up to the first game of the series about how the Sharks would start off against the Knights, given that Vegas had scored the first goal in 10 of the 14 matchups all-time with San Jose. But the Sharks buckled down and did exactly what they needed to do. They kept Vegas from scoring in the first half of the first period, got a ton of time in the offensive zone, and even got on the board first, taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
Martin Jones put on one of his best performances in recent history, but the defense in front of him was also on point. While the Sharks gave their opponents too much room in the neutral zone during their struggles down the backstretch of the regular season, they did a much better job at keeping up with Vegas’ speed and breaking up plays in Game 1.
They didn’t take their foot off the gas
Perhaps the only thing more crucial for San Jose than not trailing the game early on was to not sit back on their heels after putting the puck in the net -- like the third time they faced the Knights during the regular season and lost 7-3 after scoring the first goal of the game. In Wednesday’s game, they went up 3-0 before Vegas scored their only goal of the contest.
Piling on spoke to how well the Sharks responded to adversity from the first period. Even though they went into the first intermission with the lead, both Joe Pavelski and Timo Meier had gone into the dressing room early with their own facial injuries. While both players came back in the second -- Pavelski with a new visor to protect where he took a puck to the lip to score the opening goal -- the Sharks could have lost some momentum and gotten frustrated. Instead, they kept pushing through.
Don't expect every game to be like this one
Game 1 had some interesting things happen. They played 3-on-3 in regulation, for pete’s sake. Plus, given this is a best-of-seven series, not every game is likely to be as one-sided as this one was. The one constant we can probably expect from this series is that both teams are going to be delivering big hits and going for each other’s throats whenever possible.
With the win, San Jose now has to prepare for Vegas to come out in Game 2 with guns a-blazing, ready to knock the Sharks on their behinds. San Jose's defensive game is going to have to stay tight like it was in Game 1 and not give the Knights any room to work.