Mark Stone

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-1 loss to Vegas in home opener

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-1 loss to Vegas in home opener

SAN JOSE -- It's a darn good thing the Sharks don't play the Golden Knights every game of the regular season. 

Once again, there was no third-period comeback for San Jose, although there was a pretty good line brawl after the Sharks finally got on the board in the final frame. Unfortunately, it wasn't nearly enough for a victory on Friday evening as they fell to the rival Vegas crew in their home opener, this time by a score of 5-1.

Here are three takeaways from another lackluster effort:

Sunk from the start

There was at least some hope right after the puck dropped when Tomas Hertl nearly found the back of the net on the first shift of the game. But then San Jose gave up the first goal at the 5:01 mark -- a William Carrier shot that went five-hole on Martin Jones, which he should have stopped -- and the team never regained its footing after that. After going into a 2-0 hole in the first period Friday night, San Jose has now been outscored 13-3 by Vegas over six consecutive first periods. 

It might only be the second game of the season, but the Sharks have to do a better job of maintaining their momentum. Playing from behind can really take the wind out of a team's sails, and in the event San Jose does give up the first goal of a game, they must not let it define how the play for the rest of that contest.

The offense needs to get going

There has been plenty of talk about how much the Sharks need to tighten up their defense this season. But they also need to find more ways to create offense, which didn't happen Friday night. While there's no denying Marc-Andre Fleury is a good goalie, the Sharks didn't do enough to challenge him until Barclay Goodrow caught him out of position with less than six minutes left in the game.

It wasn't just the even-strength scoring that refused to click. San Jose's power play was even more difficult to watch, only generating one shot on goal on a single power-play opportunity, which was further exacerbated by then giving up two shorthanded goals after that. If the Sharks are going to rack up so many opportunities on the man advantage, they have to start capitalizing on them. 

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It was about time someone got angry

Of course, no player or coach wants their team to completely lose their composure and get into penalty trouble, and there were quite a few 10-minute misconducts being handed out after the debacle that followed Goodrow's third-period goal. But this Sharks team needed some extra fire in their game Friday, especially after falling into another two-goal hole so early on.

The Golden Knights made it very clear they had the upper hand in Friday's game and the Sharks didn't do much in the way of fighting back. This was exemplified in the second period when Vegas' Mark Stone poked the puck past Jones after the whistle was blown, which provoked practically no response from San Jose. If it takes that long for the Sharks to up their aggression against a heavily-despised rival like the Knights, it doesn't bode well for how they'll play against a lesser rival.

Sharks' Erik Karlsson, Vegas' Mark Stone looking for first Game 7 win

Sharks' Erik Karlsson, Vegas' Mark Stone looking for first Game 7 win

Erik Karlsson and Mark Stone were on the same side of the last Game 7 they played.

Karlsson, now a Sharks defenseman, and Stone, now a Vegas Golden Knights winger, arguably were the Ottawa Senators' best players in a double-overtime, Game 7 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final two years ago. The former assisted the latter's goal in the first period, and Karlsson also set up the Senators' tying goal late in the third period.

It was only Stone's first Game 7 in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and Karlsson's second. One will have to beat the other Tuesday night for the first Game 7 win of their respective careers, as the Sharks and Golden Knights' first-round series concludes.

"I thnk I lost both, right?" Karlsson quipped at the Sharks' morning skate Tuesday. "No, it's fun. We've been playing two Game 7s in a row here now. For us, we know what's on the line. ... It's all going to be about this group in here, this room in here and what we feel we have to do to be successful."

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Part of that success lies in the Sharks shutting down Karlsson's former teammate, and Stone's new linemates Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny. San Jose forced this all-or-nothing contest by winning each of the last two games, and Stone failed to score in each of those games. He still led the Stanley Cup playoffs in goals (six) and points (10) entering Tuesday, but Stone has not picked up a point since Game 4.

In all situations over the last two games, Stone has been held to only one shot on goal, seven attempts (none off the rush) and two high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. In the first four games, Stone had 11 shots, 16 attempts (two off the rush) and seven high-danger chances.

In the series, Karlsson has played more at 5-on-5 against Stone than any other Vegas forward, and Stone has seen more of Karlsson than any Sharks skater. But since defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic returned to San Jose's lineup in Game 5, Stone has primarily played against Vlasic. The Golden Knights largely have controlled the 5-on-5 shot clock with Stone out against Vlasic, but managed just two high-danger chances in 13:34 of 5-on-5 time when both were on the ice in Game 5.

NBC Sports California analyst Jamie Baker pointed to Vlasic as a big reason why the Sharks have kept Stone and his line off the board, plus San Jose's awareness of the trio's strengths -- namely, their ability to quickly read and react.

"If you're playing against that line, you can't make high-risk plays," Baker said in a phone interview Monday. "You've got to go low-risk. You've got to know that these guys can counter so quickly, and make things happen so fast that you can't turn the puck over. ... If you go off the ice at the same time they do, and they don't get any scoring chances, it's a neutral shift but it's almost slightly an advantage for you since you're neutralizing their top-scoring line."

Vlasic won't be able to play against Stone's line every shift, so Karlsson probably will still see his fair share of his former teammate Tuesday night. Although he has mostly matched up with William Karlsson's line ovet the last two games, the two-time Norris Trophy winner told reporters he expects to see a mix of opponents in Game 7.

Karlsson has not quite looked himself in this series, and the Sharks' regular-season finale just over two weeks ago was his first in a month-and-a-half after injuring himself before and after the All-Star break. Despite that, he still leads San Jose in points (seven -- all assists) just as his former teammate has paced Vegas.

[RELATED: Broadcasters pick Game 7 unsung heroes]

Game 7 will come down to more than just a pair of former Senators, though.

"We can't be scared of losing," Karlsson said. "We've got to ... control the puck, and not be afraid to make mistakes, because they're going to happen anyways. It's all about how you recover and how you deal with it. We should have a lot of confidence in here. We know who we are as a team. We know what we have to do, and again, it's just a matter of doing it."

NHL playoffs: Sharks allow another early goal to open Game 4 vs. Vegas

NHL playoffs: Sharks allow another early goal to open Game 4 vs. Vegas

It was déjà vu all over again for the Sharks in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

The Vegas Golden Knights once again scored the game's first goal and once again scored within the game's first five minutes. Vegas capitalized on an Erik Karlsson turnover in the Sharks' offensive zone, and Max Pacioretty gave the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead in Game 4 of the first-round series. 

The game-opening goal came at a usual time and off the stick of a usual nemesis. Pacioretty has now scored in each of the last three games, and Mark Stone's assist is his ninth point in four games. 

In all, the Sharks now have allowed a goal within the first five minutes against the Golden Knights in 10 of 18 meetings in the regular season and playoffs. Slow starts to each period sunk San Jose in Game 3, and the Sharks will once again have to chase the lead in Game 4.