In winning the past two games of their Western Conference quarterfinal series, the Golden Knights were forced to play two high-intensity, rough-and-tumble encounters that looked like they belonged in the Federal League.
On Tuesday, the Knights showed they can play old-time hockey, too.
Marc-Andre Fleury posted his first shutout of the postseason and Max Pacioretty pumped in two goals to help the Knights take a stranglehold on their best-of-seven series with a 5-0 win over San Jose at T-MobileArena.
Game 5 is at San Jose on Thursday, and teams that take a 3-1 lead have won the series 90.7 percent of the time.
“We get so much momentum, we get so fired up from the fans, so we’ve got to credit a lot of these quick goals to them,” Pacioretty said. “But at the same time, it wasn’t the perfect game for our group, or for theirgroup. We know we have to be better to win in their building. We definitely got better as the game went on, but at the same time, there’s some areas we want to clean up.”
Pacioretty finished with four points, as he notched his fourth straight multipoint game. Defenseman Shea Theodore tallied a spectacular goal in the first period and Alex Tuch and Jonathan Marchessault also scoredfor the Knights.
Fleury made 18 of his 28 saves in the first period and continued to outduel Sharks counterpart Martin Jones.
Fleury earned his 78th career postseason win, breaking a tie with Mike Vernon for seventh on the NHL’s all-time list. He also passed Vernon for fifth all time with his 139th career postseason appearance.
Jones allowed two goals on seven shots in the first period and was yanked in favor of Aaron Dell to start the second period. It was the sixth time in 17 career appearances against the Knights that Jones has beenpulled and the fourth time in the postseason.
“The first was busy, they had a lot of shots at the net and stuff,” Fleury said. “Our guys were good, they blocked a lot of shots. We took over after. We had a great second period, and the third period had a lot ofpower plays. They didn’t have too many shots.”
Pacioretty converted on a power play with 7:27 remaining in the second period when he picked up his own rebound and fired in his second goal of the game to put the Knights up 3-0.
Tuch and Marchessault added third-period goals.
San Jose finished with 11 penalties for 38 minutes, as frustration started to set in during the third period.
“You have to give credit to Fleury,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “He frustrated us tonight and allowed them to be in the position they were in the third period.
“We have to find a way to solve Fleury. We have to find a way to score and get great goaltending, too.”
San Jose played without center Joe Thornton, who was suspended for a Game 3 hit to the head of Knights forward Tomas Nosek, and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (undisclosed injury).
The Knights took the lead in the first minute of the past two games and became the first team in NHL history to score in the first 90 seconds of three straight playoff games.
Stone dropped a pass for Pacioretty, who wired a shot past Jones into the upper corner for his third postseason goal at 1:11 of the first period.
It marked the 10th time in 18 meetings against San Jose that the Knights scored in the first five minutes.
The Sharks recovered and finished the period with 18 shots on goal (10 came on three power plays), but Theodore put the Knights up 2-0 on a sparkling effort with 46.7 seconds remaining in the period.
Theodore picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, danced between Sharks defenders Brent Burns and Brenden Dillon and showed off his hands with a slick backhand move around Jones.
“They’re in a groove right now, and they’re playing well. There’s really nothing specific,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. “We didn’t play our type of game the first two periods. We didn’t get off to a great start.
“Fortunately we had a great goaltender who made some big saves for us.”
1. Isn’t that special. The Golden Knights continued to dominate on special teams, scoring a power-play goal for the fourth straight game while killing off all four San Jose power plays. The Knights went 2-for-9 on the power play and are 6-for-22 with the man advantage in the series.
2. Making history. Right wing Mark Stone picked up two assists to become the eighth player in the past 30 seasons to record 10 or more points in his team’s first four playoff games. Stone was later joined in that club by teammate Max Pacioretty, who finished with four points and has 10 points (four goals, six assists).
3. Early shower. Sharks forward Evander Kane was held without a point for the second straight game, and the 30-goal scorer lost his cool in the third period. Kane picked up minor penalties for cross-checking and roughing along with a 10-minute misconduct, and the crowd roared its approval as he was escorted to the locker room.
Game 1: Sharks 5, Golden Knights 2
Game 2: Golden Knights 5, Sharks 3
Game 3: Golden Knights 6, Sharks 3
Game 4: Golden Knights 5, Sharks 0
Thursday: at San Jose, 7 p.m.
x-April 21: at Golden Knights, TBA
x-April 23: at San Jose, TBA