SAN JOSE, CALIF.—The Shark Tank was rocking after San Jose erased a three-goal deficit in the closing minutes of the first period and appeared to score again in the opening minute of the second.
Then, the referee waved it off for goalie interference and gave Vegas a power play that changed the momentum of the game and possibly the series.
Mark Stone scored the tiebreaking goal on that power play and the Golden Knights responded after the first-period collapse to beat the Sharks 5-3 on Friday night to tie their playoff series at one game apiece.
“For our power play to come out and really bear down was obviously a big swing,” Stone said. “There’s momentum swings in playoff games every night. Every game is a new chapter in a series and tonight was a big win for us.”
The teams packed an entire game into the opening minutes with the Golden Knights scoring three goals in the first 6:11 and the Sharks rallying for three more in the final 3:01 to become the first team in NHL history to tie a playoff game in the first period after falling behind 3-0.
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The craziness continued at the start of the second period when the Sharks briefly celebrated an apparent goal in the opening minute by Brent Burns. That quickly turned to frustration when the officials waved off the goal because Logan Couture interfered with Marc-Andre Fleury, giving the Golden Knights the power play that led to the game-winning goal.
“It was awesome,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. “It was definitely the right call. He hit him in the head. He tried to play the puck, he was defending his goal, he’s trying to play the puck and a guy skates through the blue paint and bumps him in the head. To me, it’s pretty obvious. I don’t know what they’re saying down there.”
Predictably, that wasn’t the view from the Sharks side, with coach Peter DeBoer calling it a “travesty.” DeBoer said he believed Fleury was outside the crease when contact was made and was upset the referee called a penalty on what he thought was incidental contact because that prevented a chance at a replay review.
“That one call is a two-goal swing and devastating for our group,” DeBoer said. “It’s a shame.”
Stone converted from the slot after a scramble for his third goal of the series and Vegas held on from there, thanks in part to 34 saves from Fleury.
Cody Eakin, Colin Miller and Max Pacioretty all scored in the first period to stake the Golden Knights to the big lead after losing the opener 5-2. William Karlsson added a short-handed goal in the third to ice it.
Game 3 will be Sunday night in Las Vegas.
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Couture, Tomas Hertl and Joe Thornton scored for the Sharks, who were doomed by the lacklustre start and a poor power play. Martin Jones was pulled for Aaron Dell after allowing three goals on seven shots.
Perhaps even more concerning for San Jose was the fact that defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left after blocking a shot in the second period and didn’t return. Couture also missed significant time in the second period after being hit in the groin area by a shot but returned for the third.
The Sharks had chances to tie it with an early power play, but allowed a goal on a breakaway from Karlsson instead to fall behind 5-3. They finished 1 for 8 with the man advantage, along with allowing two short-handed goals.
“We just got outworked, plain and simple,” forward Evander Kane said. “We can’t give up two short-handed goals and expect to win in the post-season. We just got outworked.”
Gallant had been unhappy with the compete level of his team in the opener, but that wasn’t a problem early as Eakin scored just 58 seconds into the game after being left alone in the slot and the Golden Knights controlling the play early.
They even killed off one minute of a two-man advantage and scored a short-handed goal just after Colin Miller came back on the ice as he stole a back pass from Erik Karlsson and beat Jones on the rush to make it 2-0.
Pacioretty added his goal less than two minutes later after a turnover from Vlasic and it appeared as if the rout was on before a reckless penalty by Miller negated a Vegas power play.
The Sharks got on the board during 4-on-4 play with tic-tac-toe passing from Karlsson to Pavelski to Couture, who put the puck into an open net.
Karlsson’s shot from the point on the man advantage deflected off Hertl to make it a one-goal game and Thornton tied it with 52 seconds left in the period when he redirected a pass from Brenden Dillon after Evander Kane’s hustle created the scoring chance.
NOTES: Miller played in place of Nick Holden after sitting in the opener. He scored the short-handed goal, but also took two penalties. … Jones has been pulled in five of 14 career starts against Vegas.