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5 Keys: Golden Knights at Sharks, Game 7

Vegas needs to ratchet up offense; San Jose must keep puck in opposite end

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist



Best-of-7 series tied 3-3


The San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights will play Game 7 of the Western Conference First Round at SAP Center on Tuesday.

The winner will play the Colorado Avalanche in the second round.

The Sharks are trying to win a best-of-7 series after trailing 3-1 for the first time in their history. Home teams have won Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs 58.1 percent of the time (100-72). San Jose is 6-4 in Game 7, 3-1 at home.

The Golden Knights are playing a Game 7 for the first time and trying to become the third team to advance past the first round in each of its first two seasons in the NHL, after the New York Rangers (1926-28) and St. Louis Blues (1967-69). They eliminated the Sharks in Game 6 of the second round at San Jose last season.

Here are 5 Keys to Game 7:


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


1. Generate better chances

The Golden Knights had 44 shots in regulation and 59 through the second overtime in Game 6. But they didn't have many on the rush and took a lot from the outside in a 2-1 loss, with goalie Martin Jones making 58 saves to set a Sharks record.

Vegas has to seize opportunities to skate through the neutral zone with speed. If the Sharks force them to dump the puck, the Golden Knights have to forecheck and get the puck to the high-danger areas in the middle of the ice.

"We need to get closer to [Jones], definitely make his life a little tougher," Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault said. "Got to give him credit, he was good last game. But I think our quality of our shots needs to be better and be more inside the dots. Get in those dirty areas. There's no secret to playoff hockey."

Video: SJS@VGK, Gm6: Jones stops 58 for franchise record


2. Keep shots down

The Sharks don't expect to win Game 7 the way they won Game 6.

"Obviously we can't give up that many shots," coach Peter DeBoer said. "I thought there was a lot of perimeter stuff, but we're still allowing those pucks to get to the net. So we've got to shut that down. And part of that is establishing more offensive-zone time and offense.

"In order to do that we have to forecheck better. We have to turn over more pucks. We have to play in the other team's end more. I thought we were a little disjointed offensively and accepted the game a little bit too much [in Game 6] during some periods, and some other periods, I thought we got on our toes and did a good job."


3. Score first

The team scoring the first goal has won each game in this series, and the team scoring first has won Game 7 74.4 percent of the time (128-44) in NHL history.

Four times in this series the first goal has come in the first 1:16. 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.

Video: SJS@VGK, Gm3: Stone scores 16 seconds in


4. Save with grace

Jones was solid in Game 1, struggled in Games 2-4, and was at his best in Games 5 and 6. Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had a 28-save shutout in Game 4 but hasn't been dominant.

Jones' save percentage in the series is .906; Fleury's is .912.

The last time San Jose played a Game 7, Jones had a 20-save shutout when the Sharks defeated the Nashville Predators 5-0 at SAP Center in the 2016 second round.

Fleury has won a Game 7 three times in his career, all on the road with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In the last one, he had a 29-save shutout when the Penguins defeated the Washington Capitals 2-0 in the 2017 second round.


5. Make a play

Who's going to be the hero?

Each team has acquired difference-makers in the past year. The Sharks traded for defenseman Erik Karlsson, who leads the playoffs with seven assists. The Golden Knights added forwards Mark Stone (six goals, four assists) and Max Pacioretty (four goals, six assists), who are tied for the playoff scoring lead with 10 points each, and center Paul Stastny, who has eight points (two goals, six assists).

Each team has several others known for making big plays, but the hero doesn't have to be a star.


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

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

DeBoer said San Jose could have some lineup changes. ... Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said a fresh forward or defenseman could enter the lineup but would be a game-time decision. staff writer David Satriano contributed to this report

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