The San Jose Sharks have twice avoided elimination against the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference First Round, most recently when forward Tomas Hertl scored shorthanded at 11:17 of the second overtime Sunday for a 2-1 road victory to force Game 7.
The Sharks will host the deciding game at SAP Center on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS, NBCSCA, ATTSN-RM).
So who will win and advance to the second round? Will Vegas eliminate San Jose from the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight season, or will the Sharks turn the tables? We asked five members of the NHL.com staff to pick the winner and list their reasons.
[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Golden Knights series coverage]
Tim Campbell, staff writer
There are numerous reasons the Sharks will advance. Momentum has been moving their way late in the series. Another factor that's often hard to measure, but no less real, is motivation. Each team is motivated to keep going in the chase for the Stanley Cup, but the Sharks were eliminated by the Golden Knights last season in a six-game second-round series, and they'd like to exact revenge. Then there is goalie Martin Jones, who made 58 saves in Game 6 and has found his game after struggling in the three losses in Games 2-4, when he allowed 11 goals on 54 shots. Unlike many, I don't find the fact that he found his form late to be a negative. And San Jose's marquee players, among them defensemen Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns and forward Joe Pavelski, have the experience to be assets in such a pressure-packed game. Final score: Sharks 4, Golden Knights 2
Video: Sharks score in double overtime and force Game 7
Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist
The Sharks, and Jones in particular, have shown something by fighting back after losing three straight and being behind 3-1 in the series. But the Golden Knights have had 91 shots during the past two games, including 31:17 of overtime. Keep that up, and the odds are in their favor. Game 6 was the first time this season the Sharks won when scoring two goals or fewer (19 games). Vegas closed out San Jose at SAP Center last season. Final score: Golden Knights 5, Sharks 3
William Douglas, staff writer
Game 6 came down to goaltending and the play of Jones. But in Game 7, it's hard to go against Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. He likely will put Hertl's goal in the rearview mirror and be sharp Tuesday. Fleury is Game 7-tested. A three-time Stanley Cup champion, he went 3-3 with a 1.86 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in Game 7 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fleury's play and a continuation of the offensive pressure mounted by the Golden Knights in Game 6 will be tough for the Sharks to overcome. Final score: Golden Knights 3, Sharks 2
Video: SJS@VGK, Gm6: Defense aids Fleury for amazing OT stop
Adam Kimelman, deputy managing editor
It would be easy to pick the Sharks; they have the momentum and home ice. But I still think the Golden Knights will win. Vegas has outplayed San Jose for long stretches the past two games. The Sharks' only shot in the second overtime in Game 6 was Hertl's goal. In Games 5 and 6, the Golden Knights outshot the Sharks 91-58, were plus-57 in shot attempts and controlled 60.52 percent of the 5-on-5 shot attempts. That means the Sharks have relied on Jones to make big save after big save. Can he do it one more time? I'm guessing no. I think the Vegas offense breaks through and Fleury has his best game of the series. Final score: Golden Knights 2, Sharks 0
Mike G. Morreale, staff writer
The game will come down to goaltending, and Fleury will be the difference maker. He leads active NHL goalies in postseason games played (141), wins (78) and shutouts (15). He has the mental makeup needed to rebound from Game 6. Each of his three Game 7 wins has come on the road, and he had a 1.00 goals-against average and .959 save percentage in those games. Fleury has started each of Vegas' 12 playoff games against the Sharks the past two seasons and has three shutouts. Final score: Golden Knights 3, Sharks 1
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