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Golden Knights should worry about hockey amid meltdown from Sharks

Updated April 17, 2019 - 4:31 pm

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Jonathan Marchessault isn’t your cookie-cutter quote of a hockey player.

Intelligent. Introspective. Thoughtful when discussing things far beyond his next shift.

So when asked about some of the back-and-forth shenanigans that have defined much of this Western Conference quarterfinal series between the Golden Knights and San Jose, the forward offered a broader glance at what is a definite issue.

“Yeah, we were actually talking about this,” Marchessault said. “I think the league should maybe start giving out fines. When games are out of hand like that, there’s just stupid stuff that happens. It’s not only our series. Obviously, it’s everybody, but maybe give out fines and guys are going to think twice.”

He’s right, of course, and the stance also sheds light on this: The NHL on a nightly basis struggles to define and then properly discipline many of those penalties that lead to game misconducts and potential suspensions, to the sort of chaos that developed over the final 10 minutes Tuesday with the Knights up big in a game they would win 5-0.

Fighting and unsportsmanlike conduct and cross-checking and roughing are sort of like goalie interference.

Nobody really seems to know what to call. At least not on a consistent basis.

Here’s how the Knights need to approach such moments in Game 5 of the best-of-seven Thursday night at the SAP Center: Forget all of it. Play hockey.

Undisciplined Sharks

Let the Sharks continue to implode.

San Jose trails the series 3-1 and is an undisciplined bunch at the moment, struggling to stay out the box and keep up with a Knights team that has won three straight, a streak in which they haven’t trailed on the scoreboard.

The Sharks, meanwhile, stand at doorstep of elimination with the Knights firmly inside their heads, meaning there’s no reason for Vegas to risk allowing San Jose back in the series by simply not controlling emotions.

“Right now, it’s all about winning games,” said Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb. “I don’t know if we are in (San Jose’s heads) or not. It doesn’t really matter. There’s a time and place for it. That’s all extra stuff. At the end of the day, you just want to win games and that’s what we’re here for. We want to go play our game and end this series.”

No one has pushed the buttons of San Jose players more than Knights forward Ryan Reaves, whose daily back-and-forth barbs with Sharks forward Evander Kane have at times offered more entertainment than the actual games.

I mean, come on, the whole thing about Reaves suggesting Joe Thornton was too old to see the ice from the press box without glasses and Kane referring to Reaves as the Muffin Man offered some pretty humorous soundbites.

“(Reaves) has done his job, I will give him credit for that,” said Sharks forward Joe Pavelski. “He tries to bait a few guys in. We know what he is.”

And still, they can’t help themselves.

Sharks melt down

Kane has been penalized 38 minutes in the series, including receiving two game misconducts. He got one Tuesday for throwing a punch at Colin Miller of the Knights, while Sharks teammate Timo Meier was also shown the door for shooting a puck at the defenseman.

San Jose just melted down.

Goonsville type stuff.

The league might not consistently know how to handle such penalties — either allow fighting or not but make a final call on it — and yet the Knights should absolutely understand their best path to finishing off the Sharks.

Which is to say don’t be the side that lights the match, but rather one to watch the structure burn while focusing on nothing more than playing hockey.

“I pay no attention to what’s coming out of their locker room,” Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. “It’s part of hockey. If they’re not upset because they’re losing hockey games, they’re not in the right business. I’m sure they’re definitely disappointed and are going to do everything they can to win a series, and that’s the way it should be.”

Self-destruction can become addictive.

If the Knights allow them, there’s a good chance the Sharks will continue to play along.

More Golden Knights: Follow at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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