SAN JOSE, Calif. — Tomas Hertl had a difficult act to follow in the trash-talking department after the Golden Knights and Sharks traded memorable chirps for the past week.
But San Jose’s talented center stepped up to the mic Thursday and fired the latest salvo in the war of words between the rivals.
“Right now we know we have one more game, then come back for Game 7,” Hertl told the announced sellout crowd of 17,562 at SAP Center. “I believe it, because we’re a better team than them.”
Hertl finished with two goals to spark an inspired effort by San Jose, and the Knights missed a chance to close out their Western Conference quarterfinal series with a 5-2 loss.
Game 6 of the best-of-seven series is Sunday at T-Mobile Arena at a time to be determined.
“Overall, we played a pretty solid game. At the end, we just fell a little short,” Knight coach Gerard Gallant said. “We put a lot of pucks to the net and moved the puck. … I liked most of our game. It was probably the best game of the series for two teams against each other.”
The Knights were trying to eliminate San Jose for the second straight year at SAP Center but fell behind early and were unable to recover.
Reilly Smith scored late in the first period, and Jonathan Marchessault brought the Knights to within 3-2 with 8:24 remaining in the game when he converted on a power play.
But with the Knights pushing to tie the game, Marchessault was whistled for high-sticking on San Jose’s Logan Couture with 5:30 to play.
Officials missed the penalty at first — the TV broadcast later showed two of Couture’s teeth on the ice — but huddled during a stoppage and sent Marchessault to the box.
“I think it’s the linesman that calls it. I don’t get it,” Marchessault said. “It was me, but I didn’t even feel I was touching him. I was already engaged in the play and just trying to get there. I didn’t see what happened, honestly. I was just so surprised I was getting a penalty there.”
San Jose took advantage on the power play, as Hertl popped in a rebound with 5:15 left for a 4-2 lead. Joe Pavelski added an empty-net goal late.
“It’s frustrating because we just got back into the hockey game and they called it,” Gallant said. “What I saw, I didn’t think there was much there for (Couture’s) reaction.”
San Jose goaltender Martin Jones, who was pulled in two of the past three games, finished with 30 saves. His biggest stop came with about eight minutes remaining when he stretched out his right pad to deny Smith on a 2-on-1.
Couture scored in the first period, and Barclay Goodrow added a goal in the second period for the Sharks, who had been 0-6 in franchise history when they trailed 3-1 in a series.
“This is a tough game to play,” San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said. “But the one thing about our group is it’s a veteran group that’s been there before. They handled it well, they prepared well and their mindset was great. We live another day.”
The Knights, who set an NHL record by scoring in the first 90 seconds of the past three games, couldn’t weather the early push from San Jose and fell behind 2-0 after 11 minutes.
But the Knights were the beneficiaries of a funny bounce to cut the lead in half with 29.8 seconds to play in the first period.
With Evander Kane in the box after his NHL-leading seventh penalty of the postseason, Smith tracked down a loose puck behind the Sharks net and threw a blind pass toward the slot.
The puck hit Erik Karlsson’s stick and then deflected off the inside Jones’ left skate before crossing the line for Smith’s first goal of the postseason.
“They came out strong, as expected,” Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “I don’t think because they scored early that it affected our game throughout the night. Everybody put it behind them, kept moving forward, played the right way. But they played a good game tonight.”
1. Diving stop. The Golden Knights’ Marc-Andre Fleury wasn’t at his best, but he teamed with defenseman Brayden McNabb to stop San Jose during a memorable sequence with about five minutes left in the second period. Fleury dived across a pile of bodies to stop Kevin Labanc’s drive, then McNabb belly-flopped in front of Logan Couture’s rebound attempt.
2. Still hot. The Knights went 2-for-2 on the power play (goals by Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault) and have scored on the power play in all five games in the series. The Knights are 8-for-24 on the power play through five games and lead the league in power-play goals.
3. Rough ice. Nobody used it as an excuse for the result, but more than one player for the Knights mentioned how poor the ice surface was at SAP Center. The arena hosted a Pink concert Wednesday night, and it was a warm day in the South Bay on Thursday, which didn’t help, either.
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
■ Sunday: at Golden Knights, TBA, AT&T SportsNet
■ x-Tuesday: at San Jose, TBA, AT&T SportsNet