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Sharks' top-line struggles led to series loss against Golden Knights

Combines for five points in six games; defensive lapses among reasons for ouster

by Eric Gilmore / Correspondent

The San Jose Sharks entered the Western Conference Second Round with high hopes after sweeping the Anaheim Ducks.

However, San Jose was unable to overcome the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round and was eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 3-0 loss in Game 6 of the best-of-7 series at SAP Center. It was the third straight season the Sharks lost an series-deciding game on home ice.


[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Sharks series coverage]


Two seasons ago, San Jose lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the Cup Final. Last season they lost to the Edmonton Oilers in Game 6 of the first round.

Here are 5 reasons the Sharks were eliminated in the second round:


1. Top-line matchup

The Sharks had no answer for the Golden Knights' top line of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith, which combined for 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists).

San Jose's top line of Joe Pavelski, Evander Kane and Joonas Donskoi combined for five points (three goals, two assists).

"Obviously we didn't produce the way we wanted to, especially in the last couple of games," Kane said. "We had some chances. Unfortunately we didn't get the bounces to go our way."

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm3: Kane goes top shelf on Fleury


2. Jones outplayed by Fleury

Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and Sharks goalie Martin Jones each played well, but Fleury made more saves at critical moments and had two shutouts. Jones, who had one shutout, was pulled from two games.

Fleury had a 28-save shutout in Game 6, his fourth of these playoffs and 14th of his NHL career.

"I think sometimes you have to give credit to the other guy," Sharks defenseman Brent Burns said. "You know the enemy's got a vote and the enemy this series was Fleury. I don't know what his numbers are, but he played unbelievable. It was tough to get goals, and obviously we didn't get any tonight, so you're not going to win."

Video: SJS@VGK, Gm5: Jones kicks out pad to stone Neal


3. Thornton's absence

The Sharks were holding out hope that center Joe Thornton would be able to return from a right knee injury sustained Jan. 23 against the Winnipeg Jets. San Jose missed his size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds), passing skill and leadership on the ice. They also missed him on the power play, where they went 5-for-27 (18.5 percent).

Kane reportedly played with a separated shoulder, and Donskoi had a lower-body injury.

"Despite the adversity, the injuries and [Thornton] being out, this group really felt we could keep winning and move on," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "There was a feeling of confidence with this group."


4. Playing from behind

The Sharks gave up the first goal in four of six games.

"The bottom line for me is we were just chasing the game every game in the series other than the 4-0 win at home [in Game 4]," DeBoer said. "I thought we had some good starts, some quality chances early in those games, and Fleury was great early in those games and allowed them to get their feet under them."

Video: Fleury's shutout sends Vegas to Conference Final


5. Defensive breakdowns

San Jose's defensive problems began in Game 1 when they lost 7-0 at T-Mobile Arena.

There were times during the series when the Sharks controlled the neutral zone and prevented the Golden Knights from entering their offensive zone at high speed. However, far too often Vegas had the majority of the chances and put tremendous pressure on Jones.




Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2 Coverage

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Capitals vs. Penguins

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