With a mid-afternoon start on a busy Easter Sunday, there still figured to be enough time to watch Game 6 without missing the newest episode of “Game of Thrones.”
Hopefully, the announced gathering of 18,458 at T-Mobile Arena set their DVRs, because they were witnesses to the second-longest game in Golden Knights history.
San Jose’s Tomas Hertl finally ended the drama when he scored short-handed with 8:43 remaining in the second overtime, handing the Knights a demoralizing 2-1 loss in the Western Conference quarterfinals.
The Sharks, who got a franchise-record 58 saves from Martin Jones, will host the deciding game in the best-of-seven series at 7 p.m. Tuesday at SAP Center. It is the first Game 7 in the Knights’ brief existence.
The longest game the Knights played was 95 minutes, 23 seconds in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinal against Los Angeles on April 13, 2018.
“We’re confident in the group that we have here,” left wing Jonathan Marchessault said. “We’re a confident group. We’re a great hockey team. We just have to keep going and stick with it. If we keep playing the right way like we did tonight, I think we’ll get rewarded.”
The Knights were looking to clinch a series at home for the first time and were attempting to become the third team in NHL history to advance past the opening round of the playoffs in their first two seasons.
They couldn’t solve Jones, the embattled goaltender who was pulled twice earlier in the series but has stopped 88 of 91 shots in San Jose’s past two victories.
“He played well,” Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “We hit him a lot. We had our chances, we just couldn’t finish.”
The Knights squandered chances in the first period when Mark Stone and Tomas Nosek fired wide at an open net, and Jones’ confidence grew as the game went on.
He made 17 saves in the third period and surpassed the Sharks’ postseason record of 56 saves set by Wade Flaherty in 1995 and the overall mark of 57 held by Jeff Hackett (Dec. 26, 1992).
“Our group has never lost faith in him,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. “We knew he was capable of this and we needed him tonight. He was our best player.”
The Knights were in control during the second overtime and went on the power play midway through the period when Barclay Goodrow slashed Reilly Smith.
But Hertl, who boldly proclaimed after San Jose’s Game 5 win that there would be a Game 7, picked up the puck in the neutral zone and fired a shot from distance that fooled Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Knights defenseman Shea Theodore hit Hertl’s stick as he was shooting, altering the trajectory of the shot.
Hertl is the first player in league history to score a short-handed winner in a multiple-overtime playoff game.
“I thought we played great,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. “Goaltenders were great at both ends and when it goes five periods and a 2-1 final, it’s a hell of a game. Lots of energy. Lots of fresh legs. In overtime, not as many fresh legs, but it was a hell of a game.”
The Knights struggled to breakout against San Jose’s forecheck early before eventually finding their legs in a high-paced first period.
But San Jose was able to grab the lead with 8.1 seconds left when Logan Couture sent a low slapper past Fleury after Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland misplayed the puck in the neutral zone.
Marchessault answered in the second period for the Knights after he had two good chances thwarted earlier.
Jones gave up a long rebound on Theodore’s shot and Marchessault kicked the puck onto his blade before flipping in a backhand with 8:40 remaining in the period.
“We definitely keep positive and keep going,” Marchessault said. “They get one little crack at it and sneak one by (Fleury). It’s obviously disappointing. I think tonight we should’ve won, but who cares? We’ve got to go to Game 7 and get it done over there.”
1. Low-scoring success. San Jose’s 2-1 victory was noteworthy for several reasons, but it also ended a dubious streak for the Sharks. Until Sunday, they had not won a game all season in which they scored two goals or fewer.
2. Wild scramble. Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 27 saves, but he needed help late in the first overtime to extend the game. Defensemen Jon Merrill and Colin Miller combined to somehow keep the puck out of the net during a mad scramble in the crease.
3. Superstitious. Coach Gerard Gallant had on his lucky electric-blue suit for the game, but it finally ran out of magic. The Knights unofficially were 7-0 during the regular season when Gallant wore the stylish threads.
David Schoen, Review-Journal
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
Game 6: Sharks 2, Golden Knights 1, 2OT
Tuesday: at San Jose, 7 p.m., AT&T SportsNet