Golden Knights survive late Sharks attack to take 3-2 series lead

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Vegas Golden Knights fans, are your heart rates returning to normal yet?

The Golden Knights hopped back on their magical playoff ride on Friday night in Sin City, but they sure didn’t make it easy on themselves after amassing a 4-0 lead through the first 50 minutes of the game.

Few figured the Golden Knights were going to roll over and die off after getting shutout in Game 3, and while they showed no signs of any lingering effects in Game 5 early following their worst loss of the playoffs two days earlier, things certainly got shaky in the third period.

Vegas was on cruise-control until the final 10 minutes, when the San Jose Sharks began their all-out assault on Marc-Andre Fluery’s net.

In a span of 6:09, the game went from a comfortable 4-0 rout to an uncertain 4-3 scoreline thanks near-epic comeback effort from the Sharks.

Earlier in the game, Alex Tuch scored two goals, including a third-period marker — a slick redirect that spelled the end of Martin Jones‘ night. Tuch’s goal proved to be an ever-important, being the fourth strike in what ended up being a 5-3 win and a 3-2 series lead for Vegas.

Jones allowed four goals on 31 shots while Fleury, who appeared to be on his way to his fourth playoff shutout this season alone, ended up stopping 27-of-30.

Kevin Lablanc, Tomas Hertl and Mikkel Boedker provided the quick strikes for San Jose, but with the Sharks’ net empty, Jonathan Marchessault slid a shot from his own blue line into the open cage to seal San Jose’s fate.

The Sharks are now in must-win mode as the series shifts back to the Shark Tank on Sunday night.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Buzzer: Thornton moves up all-time scoring list; Kings snap six-game losing skid

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Players of the Night:

Brian Elliott looked solid in Philadelphia’s overtime win over the Capitals, as he turned aside 27 of 28 shots. This was the first time in eight games that the Flyers netminder allowed fewer than three goals in a game, but he’s still been victorious in three of his last four outings.

• How about that goalie duel between Connor Hellebuyck and Anders Nilsson. The Jets won the game, but both goaltenders were fantastic during this all-Canadian matchup.

• Sticking with the goalie theme, Aaron Dell was fantastic between the pipes for in San Jose’s win against Anaheim. Even when starter Martin Jones comes back from a lower-body injury, Dell should continue to be a factor for the Sharks.

• Sharks forward Mikkel Boedker had a solid night at the office, as he racked up two goals and an assist against the Ducks. That’s impressive considering he only had 12 points on the season coming into tonight’s action.

• The Kings’ power play isn’t a player, but it came to play tonight against the Rangers. Los Angeles got three goals on the man-advantage from Jake Muzzin, Michael Amadio and Tanner Pearson. Those three power play markers helped them snap their six-game losing skid.

Highlights:

Poor Markus Granlund never saw Hellebuyck coming:

That’s a pretty sweet shot from Kevin Labanc:

Here are two pretty sweet backhand passes leading up to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare‘s goal:

Alex Ovechkin scored a power play from his favorite spot on the ice:

Non-called Penalty of the Night:

That’s a pretty dangerous hit by Dmitry Orlov on Claude Giroux. No boarding call?

Factoids:

That’s a lot of power play goals for Ovechkin:

Joe Thornton keeps movin’ on up:

The Rangers have received some balanced scoring this season:

The Golden Knights simply can’t be stopped. What a season they’re having:

Scores:

Flyers 2, Capitals 1 (OT)

Golden Knights 5, Hurricanes 1

Jets 1, Canucks 0

Sharks 6, Ducks 2

Kings 4, Rangers 2

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Maple Leafs outside of NHL’s elite, playoffs in Denver?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Elite? Maple Leafs still outside of NHL’s best at the midway mark. (Sportsnet)

• Playoffs? Playoffs?! Is it a possibility for the Colorado Avalanche this season? (Mile High Hockey)

• If the line ain’t broke in Anaheim, don’t fix it. (OC Register)

• Will Olympic participation be a big hurdle in future CBA talks? (Spector’s Hockey)

• A renewed David Backes is helping drive the Boston Bruins forward (Fanrag)

• Is Mikkel Boedker about to turn his season around? (NBC Bay Area)

• Returning from injury, where does Marc Methot fit on a crowded blue line in Dallas? (Blackout Dallas)

• Permanent shrine to display hat trick hats to be built in Vegas. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

• Arizona State’s journey from nothing to NCAA powerhouse. (NCAA.com)

• Elliotte Friedman’s 31 thoughts. (Sportsnet)

• Maple Leafs celebrate the life of Johnny Bower (The Sporting News)

• This fan finally made it to the NHL – as an equipment manager. (CBC.ca)

• Had they have gone: What Olympic rosters would look like if the NHL was involved in PyeongChang. (ESPN)

• That feeling when you’re headed to the Olympics. (TMJ4)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Sharks begin 1st training camp without Marleau in 21 years

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) There was something familiar missing in San Jose when the Sharks opened training camp.

For the first time since 1996, the Sharks took the ice for their first training camp practice without Patrick Marleau on the team as the franchise’s career leader in games and scoring left as a free agent for Toronto this summer.

“I’ve spent a lot of years with him. It is kind of strange,” said Joe Thornton, who came to San Jose in 2005. “It’s his birthday today too. It’s a little weird, but he’s going to do great up in Toronto.”

Marleau had been with San Jose since being picked second overall in 1997 but left the Sharks to sign an $18.75 million, three-year deal with the Maple Leafs in July.

Marleau has 508 goals and 574 assists for 1,082 points. He had 46 points in playing all 82 games last season as he rebounded from a disappointing 2015-16 season by scoring 27 goals, including the 500th of his career. He ranks first in San Jose in career goals, games and points.

Only six players in NHL history have played more games with one team than Marleau’s 1,493 in San Jose. The Sharks haven’t played a game without him on the ice since April 7, 2009.

“Obviously Patty has meant so much to this organization and this group,” captain Joe Pavelski said. “Everyone in this room has pretty much played with him and Patty has done something to help them out. He’ll be missed. … Just by committee somebody will step in and fill that kind of hole. That’s what we’ll need.”

The Sharks made no major additions this offseason so will need to replace Marleau’s 27 goals by getting development from younger players like Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Danny O'Regan, as well as bounce-back seasons from veterans like Thornton, Mikkel Boedker and Joonas Donskoi.

Only Pavelski, Logan Couture and Brent Burns are back after scoring more than 12 goals last season.

“When I look back at last year we had key people either have down years or miss significant time with injuries or coming off injuries,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “I think if we can stay healthy I think we’ve got a large group of guys that can really take a step this year and I expect a step out of them.”

While the Sharks lost Marleau in free agency, they did manage to keep Thornton by giving him a one-year, $8 million contract despite dwindling production last season and offseason knee surgery.

He scored just seven goals – his fewest in an 82-game season since his rookie year in 1997-98 – and was a key part of a power-play unit that uncharacteristically struggled last season. But he still managed 43 assists, teaming with captain Joe Pavelski on San Jose’s top line.

Thornton missed the final week of the regular season and the first two playoff games with a left knee injury before returning for the final four games of a first-round loss to Edmonton. Thornton then underwent surgery to repair his MCL and ACL after the season but was back skating in August and started ramping it up for training camp two weeks ago. Thornton believes the lower-body work he did in rehab this offseason will pay dividends on the ice.

“They feel real strong,” he said of his legs. “I feel a lot of pop out there. They’re probably as strong as they’ve ever been just because I had to rehab that knee so much.”

 

Looking to make the leap: Timo Meier

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This post is part of Sharks Day on PHT…

Timo Meier appeared in 34 regular-season games for the San Jose Sharks in 2016-17, and he also suited up for five postseason contests.

Even so, that felt a bit like a dress rehearsal for the ninth pick of the 2015 NHL Draft.

Meier was held pointless in the playoffs, and he wasn’t a whole lot more effective in the regular season, generating three goals and three assists while averaging 12:28 TOI per game.

Those limited opportunities stand out, and so does a lack of bounces. The Swiss-born forward managed 85 shots on goal in those 34 contests, connecting on just 3.5 percent of them.

It’s easy, then, to imagine a big jump forward if the Sharks give him more ice time and if the puck bounces the right way. Even if Meier is at a more middle-of-the-road shooting percentage, it could be a big difference.

And, let’s be honest, the Sharks could use an infusion of youth. With Patrick Marleau out of town, there’s an opportunity for someone out there, and it’s plausible that Meier could leap over the likes of, say, Mikkel Boedker and Joel Ward.

The experiment could be especially successful if Meier is the latest beneficiary of the Joe Thornton boost.

Thornton has enriched the careers of many up-and-coming snipers, with Jonathan Cheechoo standing as one of the handiest examples. Meier seems especially adept at producing goals (take, for instance, 14 goals versus nine assists at the AHL level in 2015-16), so there could conceivably be some synergy there.

Naturally, that might be asking for too big of a leap from Meier, who will turn 21 in October.

Still, it’s worth consideration, especially if the Sharks decide that they might want to spread out their offense by at least experimenting with having one Joe (Thornton) on one line and Joe Pavelski on another.

Developing a Meier-type from a promising prospect into a productive NHL player could make a big difference in sustaining the Sharks as legitimate contenders, for all we know.