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Golden Knights eliminated from playoffs after missed opportunities

Failure to close Game 7, lack of production from top line among reasons for series loss to Sharks

by Danny Webster / NHL.com Correspondent

The Vegas Golden Knights' season ended with a 5-4 overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 of the Western Conference First Round.

The Golden Knights, who made the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season in 2017-18, had a 3-1 lead in the series and were ahead 3-0 in the third period of Game 7.

 

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

 

Vegas lost to San Jose after eliminating it from the Western Conference Second Round last season.

Here are 5 reasons the Golden Knights were eliminated:

 

1. Eakin's five-minute major

The Golden Knights took a 3-0 lead at 3:36 of the third period on a goal from forward Max Pacioretty.

They were 31-0-3 between the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs when leading after two periods and 10:47 away from advancing to the second round when forward Cody Eakin was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for cross-checking Sharks forward Joe Pavelski at 9:13.

The Sharks quickly took advantage on the power play when Logan Couture scored seven seconds in (9:20) to make it 3-1. Tomas Hertl scored 49 seconds later to make it 3-2 at 10:09, and Couture's second goal 2:44 later tied it 3-3 at 12:53. Kevin Labanc gave San Jose a 4-3 lead at 13:21.

The Golden Knights had killed off four Sharks power plays in the first two periods and 25 of 29 in the series before San Jose erupted late in Game 7.

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm7: Sharks erupt for four goals late in 3rd

 

2. Vegas top line goes quiet

The line of Pacioretty (four goals, six assists), Paul Stastny (two goals, six assists) and Mark Stone (six goals, four assists) combined for 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) in the first four games of the series.

But they were held without a point in Games 5 and 6. Pacioretty scored in Game 7 and Stone had two assists, but that line was a combined minus-8 in the final three games of the series.

"We obviously knew that this would be a series that would take a lot to win right until the very end," Pacioretty said. "Obviously we think we had the game in the bag, the series in the bag. It is a frustrating feeling, but we have to remember it for next year."

 

3. Shift in goalie momentum

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury allowed six goals total in Games 2-4, while the Golden Knights scored 11 goals on San Jose's Martin Jones, who was pulled in two of the three games during that span.

The final three games were a different story. Fleury allowed 11 goals in Games 5-7 while Jones rediscovered his game. After Jones made 30 saves in Game 5, the Golden Knights had a Vegas-record 59 shots on goal but scored once in a 2-1 double-overtime loss in Game 6.

In Game 7, the Golden Knights scored three times on their first 18 shots. But in the final 34:43 of the game, they got one puck past Jones on 20 shots and Fleury was blitzed during the third-period power play at the other end of the rink.

 

4. Not enough offense from bottom six

Despite declining numbers in the final three games, Vegas' top-six forwards were able to contribute during the series. But the bottom six did not provide enough.

Eakin scored two goals, Alex Tuch had two points (one goal, one assist), and Tomas Nosek had zero points on the third line.
The fourth line of William Carrier, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Ryan Reaves did not have a point in the series. Brandon Pirri replaced Bellemare in Game 7 but did not have a point.

Video: Sharks dispatch Vegas in epic seven games to advance

 

5. Missed opportunities

The Golden Knights had numerous chances to advance to the second round but allowed the Sharks to steal the momentum.

With a chance to win the series in Game 5, they allowed Hertl's goal 1:15 into the first period and lost 5-2.

Couture scored with eight seconds remaining in the first period of Game 6 at T-Mobile Arena after Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland misplayed the puck at his blue line.

Then Vegas outshot San Jose 8-1 in the second overtime but allowed Hertl's shorthanded goal, the first in NHL history in a game that featured multiple overtimes.

And in Game 7, even a goal from forward Jonathan Marchessault with 47 seconds remaining in the third that tied the game 4-4 couldn't save Vegas in overtime.

"Last season we lost in the Stanley Cup Final and that was hard," Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. "But tonight, this is worse."

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