SAN JOSE, Calif. — Erik Karlsson didn’t play Saturday against the Golden Knights, though San Jose’s newest star was brought out during the first intermission to model the Sharks’ alternate jersey.
The announced crowd of 15,646 at SAP Center also was treated to the return of Joe Thornton, who made his first appearance since he tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee Jan. 23 against Winnipeg.
But the Knights rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period and won 5-4 in a shootout on Erik Brannstrom’s goal.
Here’s what we learned:
1. The second line is taking shape.
Coach Gerard Gallant was true to his word, giving Erik Haula the first crack at right wing on the second line alongside center Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty.
The trio started Saturday’s game and combined on the first goal 43 seconds into the first period when Pacioretty finished off a pass from Haula on a 2-on-1. Haula nearly won it for the Knights in overtime but couldn’t convert on a rebound in tight.
“It wasn’t a dominating performance, by no means,” Gallant said. “I thought they played up and down and had some scoring chances.”
Haula said he’s played left wing on a couple of occasions during his NHL career, but Tuesday’s game at Colorado was his first time on the right side. He was quiet for most of that game before he scored with less than five minutes remaining.
Haula was more of a threat on the wing against San Jose with 10 shots attempts (five on goal).
The biggest adjustment for the former center is on breakouts, where Haula is used to swinging through the middle of the ice to build up speed.
“That’s been my game for a few years here,” Haula said. “I’m just going to watch the games and try to get better from them and just try to get more comfortable so I can be dangerous off the wing.”
2. Competition on defense remains wide open.
With Zach Whitecloud being cut from training camp Friday, the Knights’ are down to four players likely competing for two spots on defense: Jake Bischoff, Brannstrom, Nicolas Hague and Griffin Reinhart.
Bischoff (two assists, four blocked shots) and Reinhart (plus-1 in 18:16 of ice time) might have been the best of the bunch.
Brannstrom, who was paired with veteran Nick Holden, is like the guy in a pickup game who is always calling for the puck, then either makes a spectacular play or a glaring error.
In the opening minute, Brannstrom gloved Brenden Dillon’s slap shot out of the air and started the rush that led to Pacioretty’s goal. His move in the shootout for the winning goal was outstanding.
“It just looked like there was no nerve at all,” Gallant said. “He just went in there and made a great move.”
On the down side, Brannstrom also hooked Barclay Goodrow on a breakaway in the second period, leading to a penalty shot, and took a holding penalty in the first period.
Hague finished with a minus-1 rating, and his misplay in the neutral zone allowed Logan Couture to get free for a short-handed goal late in the second period.
3. Oscar Lindberg future remains unclear.
It’s hard to tell whether Oscar Lindberg helped or hurt his cause Saturday. Probably a little of both.
Lindberg finished with two goals centering the second line. But he also was on the ice for three of San Jose’s four goals in regulation and lost 11 of the 17 faceoffs he took.
Lindberg appears to be battling for a spot as a bottom-six forward and has two goals and two assists in three preseason games.
“I came out a little slow,” Lindberg said. “There was def parts of the game I thought our line played decent, but there’s always small things you want to get better at.”
Golden Knights 7, Coyotes 2
Golden Knights 5, Avalanche 1
Golden Knights 7, Kings 2
Golden Knights 5, Sharks 4 S(SO)
Monday: vs. Colorado, 7 p.m.
Friday: vs. Los Angeles, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30: vs. San Jose, 5 p.m.