The crowd of more than 18,000 at T-Mobile Arena cheered loudly and proudly Sunday, seemingly trying to will the Vegas Golden Knights to a game-winning goal.
But the goal they wanted never came. Instead, the San Jose Sharks potted the game winner in the second overtime, sending the fans home stunned from a 2-1 loss and the series back to San Jose for Game 7 on Tuesday.
Fans remained confident the Knights could win the game, if disappointed their team would have to play it. They were hoping for the Knights to close out the series at home, which would’ve been their first playoff-series-clinching victory in front of the Vegas crowd.
“We’re going to win it, 100 percent,” said Mark Kasel, 48, adding that he thought Vegas outplayed San Jose on Sunday. “I thought tonight was 100 percent, but we’ve got to come back.”
He and his sister, Shelly Jensen, plan to travel to San Jose for the game. She thinks many other Vegas fans will make the trip, too.
“I know we got this. We had this tonight. Ugh,” Jensen groaned, gesturing with her hands.
The longer the game went, the stronger the tension in the air. As the third period wound down with the teams tied 1-1, Kathy Latham, a Golden Knights purse and scarf near her waist, leaned forward to get a closer look.
She crossed her fingers together, holding her hands close to her chest. She paced back and forth in the lower bowl, several seats from her own seat.
“I can’t sit down,” she said. “I can’t.”
The late-game jitters were proving too much for her to handle. She let out an “aye, aye, aye” as regulation time ended.
She was nervous about the overtime, let alone a Game 7, which might be too much for her, she said.
“I don’t know that my nerves could handle it,” she said. “I could end up having a heart attack.”
The arena crowd held its breath during scrambles in front of the net or close chances for both teams. A stadium worker gestured with both hands, saying “I’m ready, I’m ready,” to himself as the Knights tried to win in the first overtime.
Ciara Guinn, wearing a No. 61 jersey with the name “Jelly” on the back, held her 3-year-old son, Liam, wearing a No. 67 jersey with the word “Butter.” Her 7-year-old son, Boston, wore a No. 26 jersey with “Peanut,” completing the trio of the Golden Knights’ Paul Stastny-Max Pacioretty-Mark Stone line.
She enjoyed the “high energy” crowd, which makes the games fun, she said. Yet the nerves remained high Sunday night.
“Super high. Like, extremely high,” Guinn said.
She walked back and forth during the sudden-death overtime, holding her also increasingly nervous son.
“This is giving me anxiety,” she said with a smile on her face.
A few fans at Easter Sunday’s game wore bunny ears on their heads to mark the occasion. Others, like 30-year-old Jason Waufle, took it a step further, showing up in a full rabbit jumpsuit.
Waufle, wearing a necklace of plastic eggs, said he was confident the Knights could win the series if they play their best game. The Sharks are a good team and a better team than they were last year, but so are the Golden Knights, Waufle said.
Though he had hoped the Knights wouldn’t play Tuesday, he thinks the Knights have “no match” when they play their best game. If they win the series, the team might be poised for another long postseason run, he said.
“I won’t say the c-u-p word. I won’t say it,” Waufle said. “But yeah, I think they can go all the way.”
Fans had hoped the team would win after Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault scored the team’s only goal of the game, causing the stadium to rumble with cheers. Playoff hockey is incomparable, said Ashley Perdichizzi, of Las Vegas.
“There’s nothing else like it,” she said.
She and her husband had hoped the Knights could close the series at home Sunday and avoid a seventh game altogether.
“Game 7’s going to be nerve-wracking,” Justin Perdichizzi said. “It’s going to be tough to watch.”