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Round 2

Golden Knights bounce back against Sharks, win Game 5

Rebound after getting shut out to take lead in back-and-forth Western Conference series

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

LAS VEGAS -- The puck ricocheted to forward Jonathan Marchessault in the defensive zone. He kicked it to his stick, took a few quick strides and held it on his blade for a beat, standing on one skate, staring at an empty net 145 feet away.

"Got me nervous," teammate David Perron said, smiling. "I told him I was probably going to break my stick if he missed -- on him."

No need. Marchessault hit the center of the net and iced a 5-3 win for the Vegas Golden Knights against the San Jose Sharks at T-Mobile Arena on Friday. What they need to break now is the pattern.

 

[WATCH: All Sharks vs. Golden Knights Game 5 highlights Complete Golden Knights vs. Sharks series coverage]

 

The Golden Knights lead the Western Conference Second Round 3-2 and are one win from making the conference final in their inaugural season. But this best-of-7 series has been back and forth from game to game and within games.

It's been Vegas, San Jose, Vegas, San Jose, Vegas. It's been one team carrying the play, then the other. The Golden Knights took a 4-0 lead and chased goaltender Martin Jones in Game 5, then gave up three goals in the third period and had to escape disaster.

Game 6 is at San Jose on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

"It's something I heard [Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni] Malkin say the other day," Perron said. "You've got to keep your focus as long as possible. It's only going to get tougher and tougher, but the team that stays focused the most, stays disciplined the most, probably is going to find a way at the end of the seven games."

Video: SJS@VGK, Gm5: Tuch pads lead with second goal

The positive for the Golden Knights is that they rebounded from a 4-0 loss in Game 4. Coach Gerard Gallant hadn't called them out, exactly, but he said this Thursday: "When 10, 15 percent don't show up and don't forecheck like all the other guys, then that makes the biggest difference in the world."

Gallant changed 15 percent of his lineup, inserting defenseman Luca Sbisa and forwards Ryan Carpenter and Oscar Lindberg, and scratching defenseman Jon Merrill and forwards Tomas Nosek and Tomas Tatar.

The Golden Knights were sharper and faster. They got in on the forecheck. Sustained pressure in the offensive end led to forward James Neal scoring with three seconds left in the first period. Forward Alex Tuch batted in a rebound on the power play 4:52 into the second period and center Erik Haula slipped a bad-angle shot past Jones at 8:59. Though two periods, Vegas led 3-0 and was outshooting San Jose 28-17.

Video: SJS@VGK, Gm5: Neal capitalizes on lucky bounce

"I don't know if they expected less out of us," Perron said. "I don't think so. But you know what? They played a great game last game, and we wanted to show them that we can do it too, and I felt for the most part we did that tonight."

For the most part.

"We kind of slacked off a little bit in the third, gave them too many chances," Tuch said. "We backed off a little bit too much, gave them too much time and space. We've just got to be a little bit more aggressive."

Tuch scored a gorgeous goal to make it 4-0 at 8:36 of the third, deflecting a pass from center Cody Eakin past Jones on the rush, but already cracks were showing. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had to rob Sharks forward Tomas Hertl with his blocker and cover another puck in the crease. Defenseman Shea Theodore took back-to-back penalties, one for cross-checking, one for slashing.

Finally, Neal took a penalty for slashing, and the Sharks cashed in on the power play when forward Kevin Labanc scored at 9:35. Hertl followed at 11:44. Forward Mikkel Boedker followed at 15:44.

"One penalty changes things," Neal said. "So, yeah, it's tough. Got to keep your stick to yourself. I can't take a slashing penalty, gives them momentum. They score one goal, they score another one quick and then things change. We'll learn from it."

The Sharks played well at home, dominating the first 28 minutes of Game 3 before losing 4-3 in overtime, winning 4-0 in Game 4.

"It's not going to be easy," Perron said. "They're a really good team, really experienced team. They play hard. Last time that we played in their building they played their best game. And they're going to look to provide that effort and kind of put us on our heels."

Video: SJS@VGK, Gm5: Marchessault pots empty-net goal

If the pattern continues, the Sharks will win Game 6. The Golden Knights will win Game 7 on Tuesday. But why risk it?

"It's obvious when we're skating, when we're being direct, we're moving the puck quick, we're on the forecheck," Neal said. "It's noticeable. We've got to be a noticeable team. That's when we're on our best."

***

 

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