Throwing out a blowout loss in the second-round series opener, the San Jose Sharks believe they’re getting closer to playing the way they want.
With that mindset, a breakthrough in Game 4 against the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday night would change things dramatically.
After splitting the first two games in Las Vegas, the Golden Knights regained the series lead with a 4-3 win in overtime on Monday at SAP Center. Center William Karlsson scored 8:17 into the extra session to complete his third straight multipoint contest.
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But Sharks coach Peter DeBoer likes how the team has played — especially after a 7-0 loss last Thursday.
“I think we’re getting better every game,” he said Tuesday. “Game 1, you throw it out, but I thought the last two games, we’re starting to really play well. We’re getting a feel for what we need to do.”
What San Jose needs to do is continue to get more pucks past Marc-Andre Fleury. He finished with 39 saves Monday, but none bigger than a glove grab of Logan Couture’s shot from the slot early in overtime.
The three-time Stanley Cup winner is 6-1 with a 1.23 goals-against average and three shutouts during this postseason.
“He’s not going anywhere,” DeBoer noted. “We’re not the first team he’s done it to, so you’ve got to stick with it, but the good news is we’re getting better. We’re starting to put some pucks in the net.”
Since being blanked, San Jose scored seven goals in its last two games. So has Vegas.
“They’re a really good team, too,” DeBoer said. “They’ve got some high-end guys who are really opportunistic. When they get chances, they stick them in the net.”
Karlsson scored all nine of his postseason points — four goals and five assists — in a five-game streak, while Smith (goal, eight assists) has collected all of his points in a six-game run.
San Jose is aware that to have a better chance of tying the series, better discipline is needed. Trailing 1-0 in the second period Monday, the Golden Knights beat Martin Jones (1-2 with a 4.07 GAA in the series) with two straight power-play goals.
Vegas is 5-for-18 with the man advantage in this series after going 1-for-12 in a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Kings in the first round.
How would Sharks captain Joe Pavelski combat that special teams success?
“It’s staying out of the box a little bit and the simple penalties — the pucks over the glass, too many men,” he said. “I expect the guys will be ready. They’ll be ready to try and even this series out and it’s an important game for us, for sure.”
Fleury also preached the need to remain calm.
“It’s about staying disciplined during the game and having a full 60-minute effort so that we can play the way we want to play,” he said.
Game 5 is scheduled for Friday night in Las Vegas.