LAS VEGAS — Max Pacioretty had two goals and two assists, Marc-Andre Fleury earned his 15th playoff shutout and the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the San Jose Sharks 5-0 on Tuesday night for a 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven Western Conference series.
Sharks on Brink of Elimination
Vegas can eliminate the Sharks from the post-season for the second consecutive year on Thursday in San Jose.
Since losing Game 1 on the road, the Golden Knights have never trailed and they’ve outscored the Sharks 15-6.
Fleury, who made 28 saves and has stopped 87 of 93 shots in the last three games, improved his career goals-against average in the playoffs to 2.58.
Shea Theodore, Alex Tuch and Jonathan Marchessault also scored for Vegas. Nate Schmidt and Reilly Smith each had two assists.
The Sharks outshot Vegas 28-27. After the first two periods San Jose had 15 shots on net from the slot, but Fleury’s brilliance throughout the game was the difference.
San Jose goaltender Martin Jones allowed two goals and made five saves in the first period before giving way to backup Aaron Dell, who finished with 17 saves.
The Sharks were without injured centre Michael Haley and defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. San Jose centre Joe Thornton served a one-game suspension for an illegal hit on Vegas left wing Tomas Nosek in Game 3.
Vegas’ Quick Starts
The Golden Knights continued to hurt the Sharks in the opening moments of periods. Mark Stone dropped the puck off for Pacioretty, who promptly snapped a shot through a screen for his third goal of the playoffs. With his assist, Stone became the eighth player in the last 30 seasons to have 10 or more points in his team’s first four games of a post-season.
Theodore made it 2-0 with the prettiest goal of the series. He skated into the zone and by Kevin Labanc, then faked out Brent Burns and skated between the All-Star and Brenden Dillon, through the slot and deked Jones before backhanding the puck just inside the pipe.
After seeing his initial shot blocked by Dell, Pacioretty punched in his second goal of the night when he one-timed the rebound off the post and into the net with 7:27 left in the second period.
Tuch ended an eight-game goal drought when he gathered a long rebound, manoeuvred through the defence and beat Dell to make it 4-0 with a little less than 14 minutes left.
Tuch’s goal marked the 13th time San Jose defenceman Erik Karlsson was on the ice when the Golden Knights scored. The Sharks acquired Karlsson in September with hopes of bolstering their defence, but neither him nor Burns have played like All-Stars during the series.
Marchessault capped the scoring when he finished a nifty pass from Schmidt with 3:36 remaining.
NOTES: The Golden Knights are the first team in NHL history to score in the opening 90 seconds of four consecutive post-season periods. … Pacioretty’s first goal marked the 10th time in 18 games the Golden Knights scored in the opening five minutes against San Jose…The second line of Pacioretty, Stone and Paul Stastny has generated 28 points in the series, while the rest of the team has 21 combined.
Game 5 in San Jose on Thursday.
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W.G. Ramirez, The Associated Press