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Golden Knights need to be more disciplined in Game 3

Have taken 20 penalties, been shorthanded 13 times in playoff series against Sharks

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

SAN JOSE -- The Vegas Golden Knights know better.

They won a back-and-forth thrill ride at SAP Center on Friday, defeating the San Jose Sharks 5-3 and tying the Western Conference First Round 1-1. Kudos to the penalty kill, which not only held the Sharks 1-for-8 on the power play but outscored them with two shorthanded goals.


[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Golden Knights coverage]


But Vegas can't expect to keep winning that way, even with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury playing as well as he has.

Eight power plays for San Jose? Thirteen in two games? When the Sharks have two Norris Trophy winners in Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson, one of the best passers in NHL history in Joe Thornton, perhaps the best net-front puck-tipper in the League in Joe Pavelski and more?

Asking for trouble.

"Exactly," defenseman Brayden McNabb said. "We got away with it tonight, but we've got to be more disciplined no matter what. They've got a good power play, and we did a great job tonight. But we can't keep giving them opportunities."

Video: Balanced attack lifts Golden Knights to Game 2 win

Game 3 of the best-of-7 series is at T-Mobile Arena on Sunday (10 p.m. ET; NBSCN, NBCSCA, SN, SN360, TVAS, ATTSN-RM).

"We just can't keep taking eight penalties," coach Gerard Gallant said. "I mean, the last two years, we're one of the cleaner teams in the League. ... Hopefully we get back to our game and not take as many penalties."

The Golden Knights committed the fifth-fewest penalties (266) and were second in fewest penalty minutes per game (6:49) in their inaugural season of 2017-18. They were fifth in fewest penalties (263) and fifth in fewest penalty minutes per game (7:06) this season.

And in two games against San Jose, they have taken 20 penalties, seven more than the next closest team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Sharks. They have taken 56 minutes in penalties, most in the League, 12 more than the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have the second most.

The Sharks' 13 power plays are five more than the next closest team in the playoffs, the New York Islanders. They have had 21:05 of power-play time, 8:25 more than the next closest team in the playoffs, the St. Louis Blues.

That's not Vegas' game, and it's especially unwise against San Jose.

The Golden Knights are at their best 5-on-5, rolling four forward lines and three defense pairs. They were tied for 12th on the penalty kill (80.9) in the regular season; the Sharks were sixth on the power play (23.6 percent). With Burns and Karlsson, the Sharks also excel in situations with more open ice.

At 5-on-5 in this series, Vegas has outscored San Jose 3-2. At 5-on-4, each team has two goals. San Jose has outscored Vegas 2-0 at 4-on-4 and 1-0 at 3-on-3.

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm2: Eakin wires home wrister 58 seconds in

"We want to play a hard hockey game, and we just have to have a better gauge, I guess, or feel of where the game's at," forward Max Pacioretty said. "Every game writes a little bit of a different story in terms of what they let go and what they're going to call, and it was obvious they were going to call a lot on both sides [in Game 2]."

Gallant said he didn't agree with all the calls.

But some penalties clearly have been the result of a lack of discipline. Take defenseman Colin Miller's cross-checking penalty at 16:05 of the first period of Game 2, when Vegas was ahead 3-0 and on the power play. It led to two goals -- one 4-on-4, another 5-on-4 -- for San Jose. The Sharks had momentum and soon tied the game 3-3.

"There's definitely some things we can clean up from that game," Miller said. "Obviously the penalties were … They cost us early. We got that great lead, and then we let them back in the game. So, we've got to be sharper."

Twice in Game 2, the Golden Knights were called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass, which tends to happen when you're under pressure in your defensive zone. Other penalties have come from getting beaten on a play.

"Some of them we get caught watching the puck a little bit too much, and you react after," said center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who was called for tripping in the first period of Game 1. "Pretty much like mine a few days ago. I'm watching the puck the whole time, and by the time I realize where my stick is, it's too late. Guy's twisting, and then he falls."

The Golden Knights left San Jose with a split and made goalie Martin Jones an issue again for the Sharks. He was pulled after allowing three goals on seven shots in Game 2. They're going home to raucous T-Mobile Arena knowing they still haven't played their best yet.

They'd best play their best.

"It's a win," Miller said. "Go home and be happy with it. But we can improve. We can be way better. Focus on that."

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