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5 Keys: Sharks at Golden Knights, Game 6

San Jose tries to avoid elimination again; Vegas looks to clinch at home for first time

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

SHARKS at GOLDEN KNIGHTS

7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVAS, ATTSN-RM, NBCSCA

Vegas leads best-of-7 series 3-2

 

The Vegas Golden Knights will try to eliminate the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round at T-Mobile Arena on Sunday.

The Golden Knights are 4-1 at home against the Sharks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs over the past two years. They went 2-1 in the 2018 Western Conference Second Round (won series in six games) and are 2-0 in this series, outscoring the Sharks 11-3.

Vegas can become the second team in NHL history to win its way into the second round in each of its first two seasons, joining the St. Louis Blues (1967-69). The New York Rangers reached the second round in their first two seasons (1926-28), but once with an opening round bye.

Here are 5 Keys for Game 6:

 

1. First goal

The team that has scored first has won each game in the series.

"So we should so first then," Sharks center Joe Thornton said, smiling.

In each of the past four games, the first goal has come quickly. Vegas scored 58 seconds into Game 2, 16 seconds into Game 3 and 1:11 into Game 4. San Jose scored 1:16 into Game 5.

"We understand what the building's going to be like," Sharks center Joe Pavelski said. "It's going to be a tough building. We already know that. So just be ready for it and be ready for their push. We've got to try to attack this game right from the start."

Video: Blues take series lead, Sharks stave off elimination

 

2. Goaltending

Sharks goalie Martin Jones made 30 saves in a 5-2 win in Game 5, with his biggest coming against forward Reilly Smith on a 2-on-1 in the third period with the Sharks holding a one-goal lead.

Now, he has to play well in Vegas. He has been pulled four times in eight games at T-Mobile Arena in the regular season and playoffs.

Though he wasn't pulled there in the Sharks' 6-3 loss in Game 3, he could have been. He allowed six goals on 40 shots and was pulled there in a 5-0 loss in Game 4 after allowing two goals on seven shots.

Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury allowed three goals on 28 shots in Game 3 and had a 28-save shutout in Game 4.

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm5: Fleury makes great back-to-back saves

 

3. Special teams

The Golden Knights are 8-for-24 on the power play (33.3 percent). The Sharks are 4-for-23 (17.4 percent) and have allowed two shorthanded goals.

That's surprising considering the regular season. The Golden Knights ranked 25th in the NHL on the power play (16.8 percent) and 14th on the penalty kill (80.9 percent). The Sharks ranked sixth on the power play (23.6) and 15th on the penalty kill (80.8 percent).

Despite winning Game 5, San Jose went 0-for-2 on the penalty kill, although one of the goals was lucky as a pass went off a stick and off the inside of Jones' left skate. 

"We haven't really come up to the standards that we feel we can," Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson said. "Not to take anything away from them. They're doing a good job. They're finding ways to score different goals and we have to find a way now to be the PK that we should be."

 

4. Puck management

Who said this?

"You don't want to feed their transition. They're such a skilled team and especially their defensemen really like to jump in the play. So if we don't get pucks behind them at the right time or make their [defensemen] skate, they're going to join the rush and try to make it a four-man attack, even sometimes a five-man attack."

It was Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty talking about San Jose, but it could have been any of the Sharks talking about Vegas.

 

5. Seize the opportunity

If the Sharks force a Game 7, they'll have won consecutive games coming home.

The Golden Knights went 3-0 in closeout games last year, all on the road. They're 0-1 this year following the loss in Game 5 but have the chance to eliminate an opponent on home ice for the first time in their history.

"It's huge," Golden Knights forward Alex Tuch said. "Not only do we want to close it out, we want to close it out for our fans. They've been bringing a ton of energy, a ton of passion. They support us the entire season, through ups and downs. So we just want to win it for them and it for each other in this locker room." 

 

Sharks projected lineup

Timo Meier -- Logan Couture -- Joe Pavelski

Evander Kane -- Tomas Hertl -- Gustav Nyquist

Marcus Sorensen -- Joe Thornton -- Kevin Labanc

Joonas Donskoi -- Barclay Goodrow -- Melker Karlsson

Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- Brent Burns

Brenden Dillon -- Erik Karlsson

Joakim Ryan -- Justin Braun

Martin Jones

Aaron Dell

Scratched: Lukas Radil, Tim Heed

Injured: Micheal Haley (lower body)

 

Golden Knights projected lineup

Max Pacioretty -- Paul Stastny -- Mark Stone

Jonathan Marchessault -- William Karlsson -- Reilly Smith

Tomas Nosek -- Cody Eakin -- Alex Tuch

William Carrier -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Ryan Reaves

Nate Schmidt -- Deryk Engelland

Brayden McNabb -- Shea Theodore

Jon Merrill -- Colin Miller

Marc-Andre Fleury

Malcolm Subban

Scratched: Nikita Gusev, Ryan Carpenter, Nick Holden, Jimmy Schuldt, Brandon Pirri, Valentin Zykov

Injured: Erik Haula (lower body)

 

Status report

No lineup changes are expected from either team. ... Haley is expected to miss his third consecutive game.

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