Sharks face elimination versus Golden Knights

By late Sunday night, either the expansion Vegas Golden Knights will be headed to the Western Conference final or the San Jose Sharks will have forced a winner-take-all matchup.

That is what’s on the line for both teams heading into Game 6 of their second-round series in San Jose, Calif.

Vegas took a 3-2 series lead after holding on for a 5-3 home victory Friday. Alex Tuch scored twice for the Golden Knights, who gave up three goals in a 6:09 span of the third period to make it interesting before Jonathan Marchessault’s empty-netter.

Sharks forward Tomas Hertl said to keep the bags packed.

“It’s not over yet,” he told reporters. “We’ve got a home game now. We have to take it and start right away, and I believe we’ll come back (to Las Vegas) for Game 7.”

He may be on to something. The Sharks have been nearly unbeatable at home during the 2018 playoffs, posting a 3-1 record and outscoring their opponents 17-6. In Game 4 on Wednesday in northern California, Martin Jones made 34 saves for his sixth career playoff shutout in San Jose’s 4-0 win.

Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant told the team’s official website Saturday that he wouldn’t need to offer any encouragement or words of wisdom about this game.

“Our guys know that (San Jose is) going to come in and battle hard,” Gallant said. “They’re going to compete hard. That’s the way the game is going to be and that’s the way this series has gone.”

While the Sharks have plenty of playoff-tested veterans in Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns and Logan Couture (three assists in Game 5), Hertl joins that group. He scored during Friday’s third-period flurry, and leads San Jose with six goals this postseason — including four at home.

“He goes out and plays a man’s game at an important time of the year,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said of the fifth-year forward, who set a career high with 22 goals in the regular season.

Vegas is a first-year team, but its roster is dotted with plenty of playoff experience, especially with Marc-Andre Fleury in net. He has surrendered 17 goals and collected three shutouts to lift the Golden Knights to a 7-2 postseason record.

Fleury said he doesn’t think the team is looking ahead to what might happen because that’s not how they approached difficult situations during the season.

“I think we’ve had this mentality all year long. It’s all about the next game and it’s where our focus has to be,” said Fleury, who needs one win to become the 10th goaltender in NHL history with 70 playoff victories.

Vegas is 3-1 away from Sin City during the postseason but has been outscored 9-8. Seven players have goals for the Golden Knights, but only William Karlsson has more than one. Despite logging more than 39 minutes and 10 shots combined in Games 4 and 5, Karlsson failed to register a point.

He set career bests with 43 goals and 35 assists in the regular season.

In what might be the final game of the season, DeBoer said he expects the Sharks to start well and keep up that intensity throughout.

“If you are going to be eliminated or not, you don’t want to do it leaving your best game in the bag, so to speak,” he said Saturday. “We feel confident in our game. We feel that we’ve done it all year. We’ve shown up and played our best in tough situations.”

Vegas defenseman Luca Sbisa doesn’t want to see a seventh game.

“When you have a chance to close out a series — you want to do it as quickly as you can. You don’t want to give them any chance or any life,” he said Saturday.

Game 7, if necessary, is scheduled for Tuesday night in Las Vegas.