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: Pastrnak sets one playoff record, ties another after six-point night

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Saturday’s games:

Predators 5, Avalanche 4 (Predators lead 2-0)

The Preds led 3-1, 4-2 and 5-3 and the Avs just kept coming, but in the end, they didn’t have enough gas to find an equalizer and head to Denver down 2-0 in the best-of-7 series. Kevin Fiala led the way for the Preds with a goal and an assist. Nathan MacKinnon scored his first goal of the series, so the Avs will be hoping that opens the floodgates in Game 3.

Lightning 5, Devils 3 (Lightning lead 2-0)

Nikita Kucherov had a goal and two assists and the Lightning put up five goals for the second time in the series. And while Kucherov had a good game, it’s the second line of Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson who kept doing the heavy lifting for Tampa. That line had four more points in Saturday’s game and now have 10 over the first two games as the series shifts to New Jersey,

Bruins 7, Maple Leafs 3 (Bruins lead 2-0)

You can read about the battering here. The TL;DR version: David Pastrnak gets a hat trick and records six points. Bruins notch four goals on their first seven shots, chase Frederik Andersen in the first period and cruised to their second dominant win. Toronto needs help. Fast.

Sharks 3, Ducks 2 (Sharks lead 2-0)

Tomas Hertl‘s first goal of the playoffs 1:11 into the second period stood as the game-winner as Sharks held onto a 3-2 lead in the third period, riding Martin Jones‘ 28 saves, including 11 in the final frame.  Logan Couture had a goal and an assist in the win. Evander Kane had seven shots on goal and came close to rekindling the success he found in Game 1. John Gibson, despite the loss, made 32 saves and was vital in keeping the game close as the Sharks pressed in the third.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Three Stars

1. David Pastrnak, Bruins: I mean, the guy had a hat trick and a six-point night. In the playoffs. You don’t see that too often. Pastrnak was dominant against the Maple Leafs, who don’t appear to have the slightest of chances in this series based on the first two games. Pastrnak is very much responsible for that with his nine points in that span. His line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand is simply unstoppable with its 20 points. Good luck back at home, Toronto. You’re going to need it.

2. Nikita Kucherov, Lightning: Kucherov scored the game-winner and assisted on both of Alex Killorn‘s markers for a three-point night to help the Lightning to a 5-3 win and a 2-0 series lead on the Devils.

3. Logan Couture, Sharks: Couture announced his arrival in the Western Conference series against the Ducks with a goal and an assist, which proved important as the apple was on Hertl’s game-winner in the second period. The Sharks now get to head to the Shark Tank home having stolen two wins in SoCal. Advantage San Jose.

Highlights of the Night 

Pastrnak’s hat trick for your viewing pleasure:

John Gibson doing this thing:

Hertl’s game-winner:

Too quick:

Factoids of the Night

Sunday’s schedule

Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers, 3 p.m. ET (NBC)
Winnipeg Jets at Minnesota Wild, 7 p.m. ET (USA)
Columbus Blue Jackets at Washington Capitals,. 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN, NBCSWA)
Vegas Golden Knights at Los Angeles Kings, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)


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 take playful jabs at city of Winnipeg, draw response (Update)

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The San Jose Sharks are probably very happy to have their only visit to Winnipeg this season over and done with. While they may have lost 4-1 to the Jets on Sunday night, some players were probably feeling like it was a bit of a win not to have to worry about staying there again until 2018-19* (*barring a playoff meeting, of course).

Prior to Sunday’s game, NBC Sports California Tweeted a video featuring Tomas Hertl, Justin Braun and Tim Heed expressing their thoughts on the city of Winnipeg — thoughts that won’t be featured on any tourism brochures.

If they wanted to add one final zinger they could have asked Ilya Bryzgalov for his updated thoughts on Winnipeg’s park situation or caught up with Altitude TV’s Kyle Keefe about the weather.

CBC News went and asked Dayna Spiring, president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg, her thoughts on what the Sharks players said and she threw some shade their way.

Via CBC:

“Given that the Jets beat the Sharks 4-1, I can understand that they don’t like Winnipeg. It’s never fun to lose,” she said, offering to help them see the city in a better light.

“Once the NHL playoffs get into full swing and the Sharks have some more time on their hands I’d be happy to tour them around and show them all that Winnipeg has to offer — festivals, food trucks, sunshine, world-class attractions and one of the best culinary scenes in the country.

“If they want to take me up on my offer, we could even invite them to a Jets playoff game.”

As Jets fans like to do to certain opposing players, Bryzgalov was serenaded by them when he played there a few years after his comments. You can be certain they won’t forget next time those three players are in town.

UPDATE: Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister weighs in:

UPDATE #2: As you can see, NBC California has since deleted the controversial Tweet. Tueday has been an eventful day of responses. First, Jets head coach Paul Maurice spoke out, and now Sharks GM Doug Wilson said this to the Mercury News:

“It’s disappointing that our broadcast partner would put our players in that position. First of all, by even asking that question, then putting it on our broadcast. That was a question that was one of 30 that were asked earlier in the year. To me, it was an inappropriate question that should not have been asked. Whether it was an attempt at humor, it was not appropriate.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

San Jose Sharks ’15-16 Outlook

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The last time the San Jose Sharks missed the playoffs in back-to-back years was in 1996 and 1997, but they’re in danger of it happening again.

Whether or not they’ll be able to prevent that will depend largely on their goaltending. With Antti Niemi gone, San Jose is going with a combination of Alex Stalock and Martin Jones between the pipes. There’s certainly potential there, but the duo only has 83 games worth of NHL experience between them.

Stalock wasn’t that great last season either and while Jones had an impressive 2.25 GAA in Los Angeles last season, his .906 save percentage left something to be desired. Besides which, Los Angeles only called on him 15 times last season and just 11 of those were starts. So it’s entirely possible that neither will be ready to take the reigns in 2015-16 and that alone could sink the Sharks.

If their goaltending proves to be adequate though, then they still might run into issues offensively. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will both be 36 years old by the time the season starts and they declined somewhat last season. The Sharks no longer need them to be the team’s offensive leaders, but they do have to be significant contributors and if their age is catching up with them then that could be a big problem.

At the same time though, the Sharks do have reasons to be hopeful. They have some promising young players, including Tomas Hertl, who has shown flashes of brilliance but struggled in his sophomore season. Still, he’s just 21 years old and could be major part of this team going forward. On the defensive side of things, Brent Burns is coming off of a great campaign and newcomer Paul Martin should help solidify their top-four.

San Jose has the potential to be competitive this season, but it all comes back to Stalock and Jones as it’s hard to see this group doing much if neither of those two step up.

Looking to make the leap: Tom Wilson

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The numbers from Tom Wilson’s first two seasons in Washington pretty much explain his role.

Hits: 402

Penalty minutes: 323

Fights: 26

Goals: 7

While Wilson’s been effective as the energy-slash-enforcer guy, it’s probably not the role most imagined when the Caps made him the 16th overall pick in 2012. Taken ahead of the likes of Tomas Hertl and Teuvo Teravainen, the big-bodied Wilson — 6-foot-4, 210 pounds — should be able to do more.

Just ask his head coach.

“Willie is one of my favorites,” Barry Trotz told the Washington Post this offseason. “I think he’s got a great upside, but at the same time I don’t see him as a fourth line winger for the Washington Capitals.

“To me, he’s better than that.”

Wilson has appeared in plenty of games — only four players from his draft class have been in more — but hasn’t really played all that much, averaging 7:56 per game in his rookie year, then 10:56 as a sophomore, all of it in a predominantly fourth-line role. Part of that is age, having just turned 21 in March, and part of that stems from ex-head coach Adam Oates, who thrust Wilson into the muscle role to compensate for what he saw as a lack of team toughness.

Trotz, though, sees something more.

He gave Wilson top-line minutes last year alongside Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and while the promotion was brief, it provided insight into what Trotz thinks of Wilson’s potential — a big-bodied power forward that can physically punish opponents and produce offensively.

“My goal will be pretty simple with Tom,” Trotz said, per CSN Washington. “Tom needs to elevate his game. We’ll talk about all those areas of where he can and how he’s going to do it and where we see him needing to get to.”

But is this the year it happens?

There is competition for top-six minutes, especially at wing. Washington’s added some veteran talent in Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie, meaning Wilson, a pending RFA, may not get a shot at his breakthrough until 2016-17.

Or perhaps beyond.

“We want to get Wilson more ice time next year. We need to bump him,” Caps GM Brian MacLellan said. “Maybe not next year, but the year after, we have to turn him into a top-six forward.

“We just need him making more plays, doing more with the puck, contributing offensively, and I think we can get that out of him.”