The Golden Knights extended their already-sizeable lead in the Pacific Division with a 5-3 win over the Sharks Thursday night in San Jose.
James Neal scored his 24th goal of the season with only 4:50 left in the game to give Vegas a 4-3 lead, and Jonathan Marchessault scored an empty netter to ice the game.
The victory stretches the Golden Knights’ lead in the division over San Jose to 12 points. For context, the next largest gap between first and second place teams in the NHL is only four points separating Washington and Pittsburgh. Vegas also claimed the top spot in the entire NHL, moving one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Golden Knights fell behind on two different occasions Thursday night, 1-0 and 3-2.
Brayden McNabb tied the game 3-3 in the third period with a surprisingly skillful goal. McNabb faked out Sharks’ star defenseman Brent Burns with a fake slap shot, skated around him and fired a wrist shot over San Jose goalie Martin Jones’ shoulder.
Marchessault’s empty net goal came on a power play, extending the Golden Knights’ streak of games with at least one power play goal to nine games dating back to Jan. 21.
Marc-Andre Fleury earned the win in net, saving 35 of the 38 shots he faced.
Golden Knights, Sharks tied 2-2 after two periods
The Golden Knights and Sharks will enter the final period deadlocked at 2-2 Thursday night in San Jose.
William Karlsson briefly gave the Golden Knights a lead when he scored his team-high 29th goal of the season. San Jose goalie Martin Jones made a spectacular save on a shot by Jonathan Marchessault, and Karlsson tapped the rebound into a wide-open net only 37 seconds into the second period. .
The Sharks tied the game 2-2 with a power play goal when a puck bounced off Timo Meier’s body and past Marc-Andre Fleury with 8:13 left in the period.
As dominant as San Jose was in the first period, Vegas was equally assertive in the second. The Golden Knights outshot the Sharks 17-9 in the middle stanza and had the majority of the scoring chances.
Both goaltenders have played well to this point. Jones has 19 saves while Fleury has stopped 23 shots.
Golden Knights, Sharks tied 1-1 after one period
When Erik Haula slipped the puck between the pads of Sharks’ goaltender Martin Jones, it was only the second shot of the game for the Golden Knights.
San Jose drastically outplayed Vegas in the first period, outshooting the Golden Knights 16-4, but it hasn’t mattered as the score is tied 1-1.
That’s largely due to the play of Golden Knights’ goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who did everything but stand on his head during the first 20 minutes. Fleury made a slew of impressive saves, highlighted by a glove save on Sharks’ forward Kevin Labanc from right in front of the goal.
On the Sharks lone goal Fleury had no chance, as captain Joe Pavelski tipped a shot by Brent Burns from the point. The goal came only 4:40 into the game and San Jose led for nearly 10 minutes before Haula tied the game.
The Golden Knights will put a stamp on their longest road trip of the season tonight in San Jose as they face the second-place Sharks.
Vegas has gone 3-2-0 through the first five games of the trip, but tonight’s late game against a division rival could be the most important of them all. The Sharks have surged past the Ducks, Flames and Kings in the Pacific Division standings, but still trail the Golden Knights by 10 points.
If San Jose is going to close the gap and make a push for the divisional crown, the Sharks will need to take advantage of their three remaining matchups with Vegas (tonight, Mar. 22 and Mar. 31).
The first meeting between the clubs ended with a 5-4 Golden Knights’ win in overtime Nov. 24 in Las Vegas. Sharks’ goalie Martin Jones was pulled from the game only minutes into the second period after giving up three goals on only 14 shots.
Vegas led 4-1 at one point, but San Jose rallied to send the game into overtime where Jonathan Marchessault scored the game-winner.
Tonight Jones will be looking to redeem himself. The 28-year-old netminder has struggled lately with only one win in his last five starts. The Golden Knights aren’t a good team to get right against as a goalie, owning the No. 2 scoring offense in the NHL with 3.4 goals per game.
Vegas’ power play, which struggled for a long stretch, has caught fire now as well. The Golden Knights have scored a power play goal in eight straight games, going 11-for-20 during that stretch.
A road win tonight would give the Golden Knights a total of eight points on their six-game road trip, which would be considered a success, and give them a commanding 12-point lead in the Pacific Division with only 28 games remaining.
Prediction : Golden Knights 3, Sharks 1
Season record for predictions: 27-19
Puck drops: 7:30 p.m.
Where: SAP Center, San Jose
Radio: Fox Sports 1340 AM and 98.9 FM
TV: AT&T SportsNet (DirecTV 684, Cox 1313, CenturyLink Prism 1760)
Betting line: Golden Knights minus-110, Total 5.5 minus-110 to the under
Golden Knights (35-14-4) (16-11-2 road)
Coach: Gerard Gallant
Goal leader: William Karlsson (28)
Assist leader: David Perron (34)
Expected goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury (15-5-2, 1.99 goals against average)
San Jose Sharks (28-17-8) (14-7-3 home)
Coach: Peter DeBoer
Goal leader: Logan Couture (22)
Assist leader: Brent Burns (35)
Expected goalie: Martin Jones (15-13-5, 2.60 goals against average)
Golden Knights game day roster
Forwards (12): Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ryan Carpenter, Cody Eakin, Erik Haula, William Karlsson, Brendan Leipsic, Oscar Lindberg, Jonathan Marchessault, James Neal, David Perron, Reilly Smith and Alex Tuch.
Defensemen (6): Deryk Engelland, Brad Hunt, Brayden McNabb, Colin Miller, Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore.
Goalies (2): Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban