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Golden Knights continue to prove their worth in Game 3 win against Sharks

Haven't forgotten about NHL Expansion Draft, regain lead in Western series

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

SAN JOSE -- The Vegas Golden Knights call themselves by another name.

"We are the Golden Misfits," center William Karlsson said.

They've never forgotten they were deemed expendable by their former teams, exposed in the NHL Expansion Draft or traded. After shattering records for first-year teams, winning the Pacific Division and sweeping the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference First Round, it burns inside them still.

 

[WATCH: All Golden Knights vs. Sharks Game 3 highlights | Complete Golden Knights vs. Sharks series coverage]

 

Someone let go of each guy who made an elite play in a 4-3 overtime victory against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on Monday, giving the Golden Knights a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference Second Round.

Three passes -- by Karlsson, forward James Neal and forward Alex Tuch. Three finishes -- by defenseman Colin Miller, forward Jonathan Marchessault and forward Reilly Smith. Lots of saves, but one in particular by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. And the final shot by Karlsson at 8:17 of OT.

As impressive as you'll find anywhere else.

"Who would have thought?" Karlsson said. "But sometimes when you get the chance and get to play with great players, big things happen."

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm3: Karlsson wins it in OT for Vegas

Trailing 1-0, the Golden Knights were on the power play in the second period when the puck came down low to Neal, whom the Nashville Predators exposed in the expansion draft. He waited a beat to the left of goaltender Martin Jones, then slipped a pass across the crease.

The puck ticked off the stick of defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and slipped underneath to defenseman Colin Miller, whom the Boston Bruins exposed in the expansion draft. Miller buried it at 9:40.

Game tied 1-1.

"Just tried to be a little patient with it," Neal said. "[Miller] did a great job of adjusting."

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm3: Neal sets up Miller for PPG

The Golden Knights were on the power play again in the second when Tuch, traded by the Minnesota Wild at the expansion draft, sent a no-look pass from the top of the right circle to the left circle for Marchessault, exposed by the Florida Panthers in the expansion draft.

The pass was hard and fast. Marchessault dropped to one knee like Brett Hull and ripped it into the net at 13:09.

Vegas led 2-1.

"We all play with a chip on our shoulder," Marchessault said.

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm3: Marchessault nets one-timer for PPG

Soon afterward, the Golden Knights' top line of Marchessault, Karlsson and Smith cycled in the Sharks zone. Marchessault spun along the right-wing boards and fired the puck wide right. Karlsson, a left-handed shot, had his stick on the ice wide right of the net. In a split-second, he processed that Smith, traded by the Panthers at the expansion draft, was in front.

Instead of catching the puck on his blade, he deflected it right to Smith. Bang. Bang.

Vegas led 3-1.

"It's more instinct, I'd say," Karlsson said. "I know when [Marchessault's] going to put that on the net. I saw [Smith] in the corner of my eye, knew he was back there, so I just kind of tried to get him the puck."

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm3: Smith nets Karlsson's crafty deflection

Fleury, exposed by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the expansion draft despite 375 regular-season wins and three Stanley Cup rings, made 39 saves. In overtime, Sharks center Joe Pavelski passed from behind the net into the slot for forward Logan Couture, who fired a one-timer Fleury snared with his glove.

Finally, Karlsson raced down the right wing and ended it with a wicked shot into the upper left corner of the net.

Karlsson was exposed in the expansion draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets after scoring nine goals in 2015-16 and six last season as a bottom-six center. He had 43 in the regular season and has four in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as Vegas' No. 1 center.

"I just saw the opportunity to get a good scoring chance and to take the shot," Karlsson said. "Yeah, it was a pretty good shot."

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm3: Fleury robs Couture in overtime

The negative for the Golden Knights is obvious: The Sharks dominated for 28 minutes, outshooting them 27-11 before putting Vegas on the power play and giving them momentum. The Sharks came back after trailing by two goals for the second straight game, tying it when forward Tomas Hertl smacked in a puck in front with 1:57 left in regulation.

But the Golden Misfits believed in themselves, and when they got opportunities, they seized them.

"I like that we went out and won that game right now," Neal said. "It says a lot about our group. It's tough giving up two goals at the end there, and then they come back, they've got all the momentum. [Fleury] was amazing again tonight and gave us a chance to win."

Game 4 of the best-of-7 series is here Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS).

"We're a good team, so I think we deserve to be here," Karlsson said. "If that means proving people wrong, that's what it means, I guess."

***

 

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