So far, the second round has been much better than the first. With more evenly matched opponents, each series has a chance to go six or seven games.
While the Lightning drew even with the Bruins last night, the Golden Knights and Sharks played another barn burner that required overtime. It was the second consecutive game that needed sudden death to decide.
In what was a very entertaining Game 3, the Golden Knights overcame blowing a two-goal lead after the second period to pull out a hard fought 4-3 win in the first overtime. They now lead the series two games to one with Game 4 looming large for the Sharks.
San Jose showed a lot of heart and resolve rallying from a two-goal deficit with a splendid third to force overtime. They controlled most of the first half by dominating puck possession and holding a huge edge in shots and scoring chances.
However, Marc-Andre Fleury continues to be the story for Vegas. The former Pen and three time Stanley Cup winner has been brilliant. He stood on his head for large stretches last night before the Sharks struck on the power play thanks to Timo Meier burying a one-timer for the game’s first goal.
Despite being largely outplayed, the Golden Knights got it together to stun the Sharks with three straight goals. Taking advantage of undisciplined penalties, they made San Jose pay on the power play. Colin Miller and Jonathan Marchessault each scored power play goals off perfect set ups to give the Knights the lead.
Suddenly with momentum, the top line had a good shift that resulted in a nice passing play with William Karlsson tipping a misdirection pass across for a easy Reilly Smith finish to stun SAP Center. Despite being outshot 32-18, they took a 3-1 lead to the locker room.
Called out by NBC analyst Jeremy Roenick at intermission for poor coverage on the penalty kill and backing off, the Sharks responded in the third by rallying to get the game tied.
They took advantage of a Vegas minor penalty thanks to a Evander Kane power play tally from Brent Burns at 7:49 with Logan Couture screening Fleury in front. Though Vegas challenge for goalie interference, there was nothing wrong with what Couture did. He was outside the blue paint and made minimal contact with Fleury, who was at the edge of his crease. The shot whizzed by his glove.
San Jose pushed for the equalizer. It didn’t look like it would come against the stingy Fleury, who throughout made acrobatic saves. But with time winding underneath two minutes, a bit of a fluky play resulted in Tomas Hertl tying the score with 1:57 remaining in regulation.
Hertl made a strong move around the net for a wrap around attempt only to have the puck stopped. It then went by his stick and into a maze of players. With help from teammates Justin Brain and Kevin Labanc, Hertl was able to find the loose puck and put it past Fleury to send the San Jose crowd into jubilation.
To its credit, Vegas came right back with a strong shift nearly untying the score. Karlsson tried a sneaky attempt down low on Martin Jones which he got a piece of with his leg to keep it out.
The game would go to overtime. Considering how hard both teams were playing along with the speed and quick transition, I didn’t think it would last long. I was right.
First, it was the Golden Knights who got not one but two straight power plays in sudden death. One on a bench minor and the second on a lame delay of game on Game 2 double overtime hero Logan Couture. It was ridiculous because he didn’t shoot the puck directly in the stands. But rather accidentally tipping a puck out of midair out. That rule needs to have interpretation as do some others which don’t make sense.
Fortunately, the game didn’t end on such a chintzy call. Instead, the Sharks managed well killing both penalties. With lots of momentum, they applied pressure on the Knights.
When Couture was set up all alone in the slot, it looked like the game was over. But Fleury miraculously saved a laser with a impressive reflect glove save that a gymnast could be proud of. An unreal stop at a crucial moment.
Usually, after a goalie makes such a gigantic save, their team responds by scoring the next goal. Sure enough, they did thanks to a good pass by James Neal that sprung Karlsson for a breakaway. He took off like a jet and fired a quick snapshot high to the stick side by Jones inside the goalpost for the game-winner at 8:17 of the first overtime.
That concluded a great game. After Vegas blitzed San Jose 7-0 in Game 1, the last two games have been excellent. Each saw teams face adversity. Both went to sudden death. They were fast paced with plenty of action.
This series is shaping up to be a good one. Game 4 is tomorrow night at 10 PM. The late start won’t prevent me from catching it. It’s worth it even if I lose sleep.