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5 Keys: Golden Knights at Sharks, Game 5

Vegas goes for series clincher; San Jose needs better performance from goalie Jones

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist



Vegas leads best-of-7 series 3-1

The Vegas Golden Knights will try to eliminate the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 of the Western Conference First Round at SAP Center on Thursday.


[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Golden Knights series coverage]


The Golden Knights have won three straight games by a combined score of 16-6. They were 3-0 in closeout situations on their run to the Stanley Cup Final last year, including a 3-0 victory against the Sharks at SAP Center in Game 6 of the second round.

Teams with a 3-1 lead in a best-of-7 series have won that series 90.7 percent of the time (276-28). The Sharks have been behind 3-1 six times in their history and have never come back to win.

Here are 5 keys to Game 5:


1. Goaltending

Sharks goalie Martin Jones has to play better after allowing 11 goals on 54 shots for a .796 save percentage and being pulled twice in the past three games.

The Sharks also have to find a way to score on Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who has allowed six goals on 93 shots for a .935 save percentage during the same period. Fleury had a 28-save shutout in Game 4.

"We've created enough looks in most of these games to get three or four goals, which would give us a chance to win," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think [Fleury has] gotten better as the series as gone on."

Video: SJS@VGK, Gm4: Fleury climbs all-time lists in 5-0 win


2. Fast starts by Golden Knights

Jones has allowed a goal in the opening 71 seconds in each of the past three games and in each of the past five periods he has played.

Vegas has scored the first goal of the game in the first five minutes 10 times in 18 games between these teams in the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs combined.

Knowing that, the Sharks have to keep the puck away from their defensive zone, if only to get over the mental hurdle. They did that for about a minute in Game 4, but it wasn't enough.

The Golden Knights need to put a quick shot on Jones and force him to make a save.


3. Sharks defense

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will return for the Sharks. He hasn't played since a shot struck him high early in the second period of Game 2.

The Sharks need Vlasic to be a stabilizing force. Of the 16 goals the Sharks have allowed during the past three games, Erik Karlsson has been on the ice for 11 and Brent Burns for eight. They've been on the ice together for five.

DeBoer said Karlsson, who missed 27 of the last 33 regular-season games because of groin injuries, was "obviously not at 100 percent."

"It's just like Jones," DeBoer said. "You can't hang all the goals on Jonesy. You can't hang all the goals on the two defensemen that are out there the most out of anybody on the team. We've dug ourselves a hole as a team, and we've got to climb out of it as a team."


4. 'Second' line carrying Vegas

The Golden Knights' so-called second line is the No. 1 line in the NHL thus far in the playoffs.

Mark Stone (six goals, four assists) and Max Pacioretty (four goals, six assists) are tied for the playoff scoring lead with 10 points each. Center Paul Stastny is third with eight (two goals, six assists).

How do you stop them?

[Limiting] turnovers and staying out of the box would be helpful," Vlasic said.

Video: SJS@VGK, Gm3: Stone tallies first career hat trick


5. Golden opportunity

The Golden Knights have three chances to eliminate the Sharks. But they have them reeling and don't want to give them life, so the sooner they can end this series, the more rest they can get for the second round.

"We know what's on the line here," forward Jonathan Marchessault said. "We need to take care of business. They're not dead. They're a great team that can come back at any time, and we won't let them."


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, Valentin Zykov, Nick Holden, Brandon Pirri, Dylan Ferguson

Injured: Erik Haula (lower body)


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)


Status report

The Golden Knights are expected to use the same lineup from Game 4. … Thornton returns after he was suspended for Game 4 for an illegal check to the head of Nosek. He will replace Radil. Vlasic returns after missing the past two games with an undisclosed injury. He will replace Heed.

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