Heroics from Fleury Power the Vegas Golden Knights over the San Jose Sharks

After Game 4, the Vegas Golden Knights have taken a 3-1 series lead over the San Jose Sharks.

Game Summary

First period highlights

The Vegas Golden Knights start slower than they did in game three. Martin Jones shut out last longer than game three. Instead of Vegas’ hottest line scoring on Jones in the first minute, they waiting until the second minute. Mark Stone carries the puck into the offensive zone, drops the puck off and forces San Jose Sharks defenceman Brendan Dillion back towards the goal. Max Pacioretty picks up the loose puck and fires with no mistake, Vegas out front early for a second straight game.

Tweet courtesy of @KnightsonIce

With the Sharks on the power play a few minutes after the goal, Vegas keeps pressuring the Sharks. Golden Knights penalty killer William Karlsson strips Erik Karlsson of the puck as he’s trying to break out of his own zone. William Karlsson has a prime chance with time in the slot but he can’t convert and the San Jose Sharks survive a scare.

While still on the power play, the Sharks turn the puck over at the Vegas blue-line. In an effort to prevent an odd man rush, Evander Kane slashes the stick out of the hands of the Vegas penalty killer and goes to the box with 13 seconds remaining in the Sharks power play, effectively rendering the Sharks offence silent. Luckily for the Sharks, the penalty kill played well and the Vegas offence didn’t get a shot on goal during the power play.

After San Jose dominated play in the latter half of the period, with 46.7 seconds to play in the first period Vegas strikes again. Defenceman Shea Theodore walked into the offensive zone and dances around the Sharks team. Once in front of Jones in the San Jose net, Theodore’s quick hands deke Jones tucking it in around the goaltenders sprawled out pad. Vegas escapes the first period with a 2-0 lead despite being outshot 18-7.

Tweet courtesy of @KnightsonIce

An issue that the Sharks have had during the playoffs is the fact that they after going 0-for-4 on the power play in game four, they are 3-for-20 (15%) on the power play in the series. Vegas has taken penalties as if they were trying and the Sharks have yet to take advantage of the opportunities.

Second Period highlights

The second period opens up with Martin Jones being replaced by Aaron Dell. The Sharks continued to apply the pressure hoping to finally crack Vegas. Sharks winger Evander Kane was able to break into the offensive zone then driving the net but like the first period, Marc-André Fleury is up for the task.

The only Vegas line making any real difference as the second period opened was the Stone and Pacioretty line centered by Paul Stastny. The Golden Knights offensive attack up to the midway point of the second hadn’t been consistently creating chances. Winger Ryan Reaves, known more for his agitator role more than a scoring role, led the team in shots with just two, as well as a post, over half way through the game.

In what seemed to be the theme of the game, although the Golden Knights haven’t had a lot chances, they’ve taken advantage of what they have had. With a power play just after the midway point, the puck bounce their way. Mark Stone finds Pacioretty for a shot. The rebound goes high in the air, drops right in front of Pacioretty again who doesn’t miss on his second attempt. Vegas goes up 3-0 on another goal from the Stone-to-Pacioretty tandem.

Tweet courtesy of @KnightsonIce

Play was still controlled by San Jose in the second but the Golden Knights kept the game closer in terms of shot share. Shots favoured the Sharks 8-7 in the middle frame. Vegas still being outshot 26-14 overall, being aided by poor goaltending on the part of Jones.

Third Period highlights

The feel of the game shifted as the final frame began. Vegas began to consistently apply pressure and create offensive chances. Wave after wave for the first 6 minutes of the period, the Knights attack finally came to life. After a strong shift, the stone line begins to change and on a dump in by Nate Schmidt rings around the boards and bounces to the slot Pacioretty chases it down but over skates the puck. Just as he turns to retrieve it, Alex Tuch flies into the zone at top speed and blows by Erik Karlsson and tucks it into the net on Aaron Dell.

Tweet courtesy of @PeteBlackburn

As Vegas continues to pressure, tempers begin to boil. A scrum after an Evander Kane cross check results in Kane sucker punching Colin Miller. Kane is quickly given a match penalty on top of the two-minute minor for cross checking. Vegas continues to pressure with the man advantage and San Jose continues to take penalties. After a roughing penalty on Barclay Goodrow, Vegas makes the Sharks pay for their undisciplined play. Jonathon Marchessault buries his first goal of the series to make it a 5-0 game.

After San Jose dominated the first two periods, the Vegas Golden Knights come out in the third and take over the game. Fleury was outstanding in the game. Holding the Golden Knights in the game when they didn’t quite have their game going. Vegas manages to take a 3-1 series lead and really put the pressure on the Sharks in game five.

Hero of the Game

Goaltending can win steal a game. In a game where the shots attempts we dominated by San Jose in the first two periods, Marc-André Fleury hold down the fort (Or Fortress in this case) while the Vegas skaters found their game. Making 26 saves through the first two periods before only having to make two in the third period after the Knights woke up. Fleury was able to make numerous saves that could have turned the tide of the game. He faced 15 shots from the slot in the first two periods. The graphic below from Point Hockey shows how just how dominant the Sharks were through the first two periods.

Tweet courtesy of @ThePointHockey

Villain of the Game

While goaltending can win you a game, it can lose you a series. The difference in this series has been Martin Jones complete lack of ability to stop a puck. Fleury put on a show in game four, but has been no more than slightly above average. Martin Jones might not be able to win an ECHL hockey game at the moment. While there is no debate that Martin Jones has had NHL success and may very well have future success but his current level of play has been unacceptable.

While this may seem like Martin Jones is the villain, that would be too easy. The true mastermind villain is Sharks general manager Doug Wilson. The fact that he didn’t address his sub-.900 save percentage goalie situation at some point this season is completely asinine. He was in the phone with Detroit at the trade deadline when acquiring Gustav Nyquist and didn’t have the sense to push for goaltender Jimmy Howard. You can’t win if you don’t set yourself up to win.

Three Stars of the Game

🌟 VGK G Marc-André Fleury – 0 goals against, 28 saves

🌟🌟 VGK LW Max Pacioretty – 2G (GWG), 2A, 17:12 TOI, 7 SOG

🌟🌟🌟 VGK D Shea Theodore – 1G, 1A, 19:46 TOI

Where does this series go next?

With the Vegas Golden Knights taking a stranglehold on this series, the San Jose Sharks look more like a beached whale. Whether it’s the Mark Stone line dominating and scoring within 90 seconds of the game starting, Marc-André Fleury turning into “Playoff Fleury” or Martin Jones playing dodge ball with the puck, the San Jose Sharks are in rough to win this series. Heading home for game five, the Sharks need to win out in this series. Joe Thornton returning from his one game suspension for a head shot on Tomas Nosek should help. If Fleury plays like he did in game four, the Sharks have no shot.

For more on the NHL, follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari on twitter!

All stats and info is from nhl.comhockey-reference.com, theScore.com, Point Hockey and Naturalstattrick.com

Feature image is credited to Nikos Michals

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Author: Tony Ferrari

Born in Ottawa, Ontario and raised in Windsor, Tony has loved hockey his entire life. Growing up as the lone Maple Leafs fan in a household of Red Wings fans, he followed both teams since he was a child. Having been through Toronto’s rebuild as a fan, Tony is ecstatic to be along for the ride and watch the Wings get back to their glory days. Having previously written about the Detroit Lions, Tony looks forward to bringing you content from the hockey world in a series of deep dive articles and analytical points of view that can help you better understand the little things we don’t all notice because they don’t show up on the stats sheet.