Sharks

Sharks

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks scored in almost any scenario they could have envisioned in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of their first-round series.

A power-play goal gave San Jose a 1-0 lead. The first 3-on-3 tally in the postseason since Wayne Gretzky did it in the mid-1980s, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, doubled that advantage. A 4-on-4 goal made it 3-0, and the Sharks didn’t score their first 5-on-5 marker until they took a 4-1 lead with seconds left in the second period. Tomas Hertl’s empty-netter sealed the 5-2 win.

They don’t expect the same thing to happen in Game 2 at SAP Center on Friday night.

“We got a power-play goal there, but playoffs is usually won or lost 5-on-5,” said Sharks captain Joe Pavelski, fresh off a trip to the dentist Thursday after scoring that aforementioned goal Wednesday with his face.

The Sharks and Golden Knights played just 42:22 in 5-on-5 situations Wednesday night, as the teams combined for nine power-play opportunities and 56 total penalty minutes. Eight were from offsetting infractions, and an additional 30 were owed to misconducts for San Jose winger Evander Kane and Vegas forwards Tomas Nosek and Ryan Reaves for their end-of-game actions.

When Game 1 was played at full strength, however, San Jose pressed its advantage. Playing with a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes undoubtedly helped, but the Sharks had the edge in 5-on-5 shot attempts (34-22), unblocked attempts (18-16), shots on goal (12-8), and scoring chances (13-9), according to Natural Stat Trick.

 

Vegas eked out a 5-4 advantage in high-danger chances at full strength through 40 minutes and expanded upon it as they chased a 4-1 deficit on the scoreboard for much of the third period. Still, when the outcome of Game 1 largely was in doubt, the Sharks were the better 5-on-5 team.

"For us, it's about getting in and playing in their end 5-on-5 -- against whoever we're playing with,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said Friday. “So, establishing our forecheck and playing in the other team's end usually sets up the rest of our game."

It’s also an area in which the Sharks trailed in a six-game elimination at the hands of the Golden Knights in the playoffs last year.

San Jose was outscored 13-7 in 5-on-5 situations. Adjusting for score and venue -- the former is an important distinction since the series featured some lopsided scores -- the Sharks only held a slight advantage in high-danger chances (51.06 percent), but were out-attempted, outshot and out-chanced as a whole by the Golden Knights.

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Scoring in a multitude of situations ensured a win Game 1 this year, but 5-on-5 play has been San Jose’s bread and butter all season. The Sharks finished the year as one of the NHL’s best puck-possession teams by just about every metric. Their chances of advancing in the Stanley Cup playoffs ultimately will rely on that strength.

“At the end, there's some power plays but there are a little less [than the regular season], especially when you keep moving on,” Pavelski said. “And from night to night, you can't bank on getting power plays, so your 5-on-5 game has to be strong. Ours was. Moving forward, we'll try to keep improving."