What remains a seven-game Stanley Cup playoff series has transformed into a best-of-five, with the Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights splitting the first pair in San Jose.
Game 2 on Friday was filled with drama, controversy and frustration for San Jose fans, and now the series gets a little more interesting as it shifts to Southern Nevada.
Here are five observations headed into Game 3.
What do we make of this series now?
It’s difficult to determine where the Sharks are at right now in regards to momentum, after one of their absolute best recent performances (a 5-2 win in Game 1) followed by one of their worst (a 5-3 loss in Game 2).
To be clear, their resilience in erasing a three-goal deficit should be applauded. But digging that initial early hole, in addition to allowing two short-handed markers, resembled a regression to some of San Jose’s worst stretches from the regular season.
Moving on from 'The Call'
Let’s hope when this series is over that Brent Burns' disallowed goal is no more than an afterthought. From my vantage point, Logan Couture’s contact with goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (outside the crease) was incidental and not initiated by the attacking player, so the goal should have fallen as perfectly a legal tally under Rule 78.
But moving on is imperative, just as the Sharks did in the second round in 2016. In overtime of Game 4 against the Nashville Predators, Joe Pavelski was (infamously) tagged for goalie interference on what would have been the game winner, in what turned out to be a 4-3 triple-overtime loss. San Jose won the next game 5-1, and took the series in seven.
Stay with Jones
Sharks coach Peter DeBoer is making a solid decision in sticking with goaltender Martin Jones to begin Game 3. It’s not to say Jones will have every start of this series etched in stone, should some of the Vegas scoring trends continue. And it’s not to discount the capabilities of backup Aaron Dell.
But going in a different goalie direction is a major change at this juncture, and should only be used by San Jose in the way that a rip-cord works on a parachute. Besides, should that Burns goal have counted Friday, how close was Fleury to being pulled on the other side?
Vegas' additions have been difference-makers
Neither Max Pacioretty (one goal, three assists), Mark Stone (three goals) nor Paul Stasny (three assists) were part of Vegas’ storybook run to the Stanley Cup Final last season. They each were separate acquisitions to help the Golden Knights get better, and, so far, they have been the standouts of this series through two games.
Karlsson contributing, but Vlasic hurting?
It’s hard to be critical of defenseman Erik Karlsson, the Sharks’ leading point-getter with four assists. But several have commented that he takes an occasional stride or two that doesn’t “look right."
My interpretation and response to that sentiment is that it would be no surprise if he were skating through an injury that does impair him but not to the point where he can’t contribute. Refer to the 2017 postseason, and what Karlsson played though with the Ottawa Senators.
As for Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who left Game 2 with an undisclosed injury, one of hockey's weirdest dynamics is at play. Sometimes, the worst-looking injuries tend to be playable (see Joe Pavelski), and the most innocent-looking injuries (taking a shot below the arm) have the worst ramifications.