Jonathan Marchessault confessed Saturday that he’s responsible for hiding Marc-Andre Fleury’s goalie sticks before Golden Knights practices.
So when Marchessault spied the notorious prankster with a stack of practice sticks that weren’t his, the left wing knew he was about to get his comeuppance.
“I’ve been doing it for quite a long time, and he didn’t do anything so far,” Marchessault said with a laugh. “I was expecting it to come one day.”
Fleury — allegedly, at least — taped eight of his teammate’s sticks together and tossed them on the ice well before the Knights’ practice at City National Arena.
Marchessault skated a warmup lap without a stick and, midway through, playfully confronted his goaltender about the incident.
He then carried the bundle to the bench before he grabbed another stick off the rack and resumed loosening up.
“So you just heard about it? You don’t have proof?” Fleury said facetiously when asked if he was the culprit. “I can’t deny or confirm at this moment. Whatever happened, though, he deserves it because he’s been screwing with my sticks. Whoever got him did a good job.”
The fact that Fleury (allegedly) chose to get back at Marchessault the day before Game 6 of the Western Conference quarterfinals at T-Mobile Arena is noteworthy, to be sure.
With another chance to eliminate San Jose from their heated best-of-seven series, the Knights remain a loose bunch that still hasn’t reached its fifth gear in the postseason.
“It’s a big game, don’t get me wrong,” Fleury said. “But sometimes you don’t want to be uptight and squeezing the stick and forcing things.”
The Knights must shake off Thursday’s 5-2 loss at San Jose, which was the first time in four tries they lost a game with the opportunity to eliminate their opponent.
As a result, the Knights can clinch a series in front of their home fans for the first time in franchise history Sunday.
Colorado, which eliminated Calgary in five games, awaits the winner in the conference semifinals.
“We didn’t play a terrible game, but we didn’t play a game that you need to play to close out a series,” Marchessault said of Game 5. “You see Colorado (on Friday), they were all over them and they wanted it more. Every night it’s whoever wants it more.”
In the two games at T-Mobile Arena this postseason, the Knights outscored the Sharks 11-3. They are 7-2 all time against San Jose at home, including 4-1 in the postseason.
The series has been a microcosm of the season in many ways, with a slow start, a hot streak in the middle, followed by a dip later on.
The Knights controlled play for long stretches in Games 2 and 3 but had to be bailed out by Fleury in the first two periods of Game 4.
The forward line featuring right wing Mark Stone, center Paul Stastny and left wing Max Pacioretty, which carried the Knights to the series lead, was held scoreless in Game 5.
“We know we have to be a bit better in all areas, and we’re looking to improve,” Pacioretty said. “We’re in a good position, and we know that. … But at the same time, no matter what the scoreboard says, we want to go out there and play the right away each shift. It hasn’t been perfect, but this is the playoffs, and when has a team ever played perfect?
“You’re playing against a very good team on the other side with some of the best skill in the world. We do have more to give, and we’re looking to do that (Sunday).”
1. End it. The Golden Knights have shown they can win in San Jose, but they don’t want any part of the first Game 7 in franchise history and need to finish off the Sharks at home. The memes coming from the Bay Area if the Knights blew a 3-1 series lead would be relentless.
2. Buckle up. All the chippiness that marked the first half of the series has dissipated — the teams combined for five minor penalties in Game 5 — and with so much at stake, Knights coach Gerard Gallant expects both teams to lay it all on the line. “I think (Snday) will be the best game of the series,” he said.
3. Get to Jones. It’s pivotal for the Knights to dent San Jose goaltender Martin Jones’ confidence early. Don’t forget, Jones led the Sharks to the Cup final in 2016 and ranked third in all-time postseason save percentage until he ran into the Knights last season. He’s capable of a game-stealing effort.
Who: Sharks vs. Golden Knights
When: 4 p.m. Sunday
Where: T-Mobile Arena
TV: AT&T SportsNet (Cox 313/1313, DirecTV 684, CenturyLink 760/1760, U-verse 757/1757, Dish 414/5414)
Radio: KRLV (98.9 FM, 1340 AM); ESPN Deportes (1460 AM)
Line: Knights -170; total 6½
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
Game 5: Sharks 5, Golden Knights 2
Sunday: at Golden Knights, 4 p.m., AT&T SportsNet
x-Tuesday: at San Jose, TBA, AT&T SportsNet