The Vegas Golden Knights are on the brink of reaching the second round for the second time in their two-year history.
A year after advancing all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, the Golden Knights are one win away from moving past the San Jose Sharks in the post-season again as the teams head into Game 5 (10 p.m. EDT, NBCSN) on Thursday night.
After losing the series opener at San Jose, Vegas has won three straight and will be looking to close it out back on the Sharks’ home ice. The Golden Knights know it won’t be easy, though.
“They’re a team that’s not going to roll over and quit,” Vegas’ Max Pacioretty said. “They’re going to play physical. …. We know that right from the start they’re going to give it their all. We got to be ready for that and try to match that intensity.”
Veteran goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who got his 15th post-season shutout in Vegas’ 5-0 win at home in Game 4 on Tuesday night, also isn’t taking anything for granted.
“It’s not over obviously,” he said “One game at a time. … They’re a good team, they’re dangerous. We just got to go in, focus on our game. Focus on the first period, nothing too far ahead. Just focus on playing the right way in the first and get it going for the second and not worry about the result.”
‘We have to Solve Fleury’
After a 5-2 loss in the opener, the Golden Knights — who beat San Jose in six games in the second round last year — have outscored the Sharks 16-6 in the last three games. That includes a 13-3 margin after the first period of Game 2.
Martin Jones, who has started each game of this series and will be back out there for Game 5, has given up 11 goals on 54 shots over the last three games. Aaron Dell, who replaced him during Games 2 and 4, hasn’t fared much better while giving up five goals on 36 shots.
On the other end, Fleury has stopped 78 of 81 shots over the last eight periods.
“We have to find a way to solve Fleury,” San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said. “This isn’t all on our goalies. … We got to find a way to score.”
The Golden Knights have gotten off to fast starts in each of their wins, scoring within the first 15 minutes. They’re also 5 for 18 on the power play in that stretch — including 2 for 9 in Game 4 — a marked improvement from the regular season, when they were 25th in the league at 16.8%.
“There are more pucks going to the net,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. “When you’re getting pucks to the net and you’re getting second and third chances, that really opens up things.”
The Sharks know they’ll need to avoid taking penalties to have a chance to extend the series.
“We need to stay out of the (penalty) box and play our game that got us to this point in the season,” San Jose’s Logan Couture said. “Running around and taking penalties isn’t going to win games in the regular season and it’s not going to win games in the playoffs.”
Capitals @ Hurricanes
(7 p.m. EDT, NBCSN)
Road teams not only haven’t won in this series — they haven’t even led.
The Capitals led for a combined 89 minutes, 19 seconds in winning the first two games in Washington, while the Hurricanes led for the final 50:17 of their 5-0 victory at home in Game 3 that pulled them to 2-1 in the series. Washington won a league-best 10 road games last year during its run to the Stanley Cup and won twice in Raleigh during the regular-season series against its division rival.
The Hurricanes will try to continue the home-ice trend despite some injuries. Rookie forward Andrei Svechnikov was in the concussion protocol after a punch from Alex Ovechkin early in Game 3 sent his head crashing onto the ice and left him wobbly. And coach Rod Brind’Amour says physical forward Micheal Ferland has been “pretty much” ruled out with an upper body injury.
“It’s kind of been the story of this team throughout this year, different guys stepping up,” Carolina centre Jordan Staal said.
Blues @ Jets
(8:30 p.m. EDT, USA)
After dropping the first two games at home, the Jets return to Winnipeg in much better position after taking both games in St. Louis.
“We did what we needed to do on the road and tied it up,” Winnipeg’s Kyle Connor said. “It’s exciting. We’re ready to go home and play. … Our game’s not going to change much. We’re going to try and stick with that whether we’re home or away.”
St. Louis opened the series with a pair of one-goal wins, before the Jets bounced back with a 6-3 win in Game 3 and then evened the series with a 2-1 overtime victory on Tuesday night. Connor set up Mark Scheifele’s tying goal in the third period of Game 4 and then got the winner in overtime.
Each team has led at some point in every game, and both goalies have played even. The Blues’ Jordan Binnington has stopped 110 of the 122 shots he’s faced and the Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck has 109 saves on 119 shots.
“Every game has been a battle,” Scheifele said. “St. Louis has made us work for every inch and we know that’s going to happen again in Game 5 again going back home. We’ve got to be prepared.”
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Raleigh, N.C., and freelance writer Joe Harris in St. Louis contributed to this report.
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Vin A. Cherwoo, The Associated Press