SAN JOSE, Calif.
The idea was to be really good for the first five minutes.
They were great for nearly 14.
Then things went totally nuts.
“It’s good to win the crazy ones, no?” said Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
I mean, yes.
I mean, crazy is right.
If the idea about March Madness is to survive and advance, the Knights on Friday night defined playoff hockey as surviving-the-lunacy, and in the process they climbed straight back into this best-of-seven Western Conference series.
They beat San Jose 5-3 before an announced sellout crowd of 17,562 at the SAP Center, evening the series at a game apiece and guaranteeing it will return here for at least another game next Thursday.
Before that, however, the Knights can grab firmly hold of this thing with games at T-Mobile Arena on Sunday and Tuesday. Get ready for some fireworks.
These teams absolutely despise each other. It’s getting nasty fast.
Momentum doesn’t exist, not game to game. There is no such thing. Maybe shift to shift. Maybe for stretches over a period. So when the Knights led 3-0 and San Jose answered with three goals over the final three minutes of what was a bizarre first period, the Knights were faced with a pretty stark reality.
Collect themselves and find a way, or be down 2-0 in a series for the first time over two years of playoff appearances for the organization.
They chose the collecting part.
“We had a great start and came out flying, but they’re a good team and kept coming,” Fleury said. “But we didn’t panic. We told ourselves (between the first and second periods) that it was 0-0. We relaxed, had a good talk and went back out and did our job.”
Stay out of the box
Depending on how the series plays out, the Knights will likely either loathe one part of their game or celebrate another.
The loathing part: When the series ends and should the Knights be dispersing for summer vacations, there is a good chance their peril will have come from the penalty box.
Two days after dropping Game 1 by a 5-2 score and a lot of talk about how they needed to be more disciplined and not allow the Sharks any sort of man advantage, the Knights again couldn’t control themselves.
In all, they took 11 penalties for 22 minutes in Game 2, this after racking up 35 such minutes Wednesday.
At one point Friday, I had to check the roster to make sure Nic Hague was still with the Knights’ affiliate in Chicago, because he seemed to be the only defenseman who didn’t take a penalty.
Colin Miller returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Game 1, and you can make the argument he was responsible for one goal by the Knights (his own short-handed score) and two for the Sharks (after he went to the box a second time, San Jose scored 4-on-4 and on a power play).
For those actually with the Knights, Jon Merrill was the only D-man of six not to be penalized. What a slacker.
The celebrating part:
The Knights have done a terrific job of killing off most San Jose power plays — the Sharks are now 2-of-13 in such situations for the series and were just 1-of-8 Friday — but the more chances you give a team as potent as the one wearing teal, the better odds a dam or two is going to collapse.
“We have to stay out of the box,” said Knights center William Karlsson, who scored his first goal of these playoffs. “But the penalty kill was there again for us and Marc-Andre stood on his head. We punched back. I’m real proud of all the guys.”
For a spell, the Knights were reminded how much they enjoy opposing Sharks goalie Martin Jones, who before his Game 1 victory had been wildly inconsistent in any such matchup and at times downright dreadful.
But in those opening minutes of Game 2, the Knights did what they couldn’t Wednesday. They scored three goals on just seven shots before San Jose coach Peter DeBoer had seen enough, pulling Jones in favor of Aaron Dell.
You can make the argument none of the three goals were Jones’ fault. Still, the last thing the Knights wanted in this series was him with any level of confidence.
“I feel a lot better than I did (Wednesday),” Karlsson said. “To come here and take one game here is pretty good. Hopefully, we can keep it going.”
Either way, Las Vegas, prepare for those fireworks.
Two games in, this thing is wild.
Contact columnist Ed Graney at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.