The Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights will try and build on a three-game winning streak when they host the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night in Las Vegas.
The Golden Knights, who limped into their bye week and the All-Star break with a four-game losing streak, have outscored opponents 17-4 in three victories since returning from the break, including a 7-2 blowout of Anaheim on Sunday when they scored a franchise-record five goals in the third period.
“I think the break couldn’t have come at a better time for us,” said goalie Adin Hill, who made 23 saves in place of injured All-Star Logan Thompson. “We seem to have a lot of energy, and we’re putting the puck in the net right now.”
Seven different Vegas players scored goals against Anaheim and only four players failed to garner a point in the contest. They’ll try and keep that momentum going against the seventh-place Sharks. The Golden Knights are 19-2-4 all-time against San Jose in the regular season.
Vegas holds just a one-point lead over Los Angeles in the Pacific standings and is two points in front of third-place Seattle with just 28 games to go. Coach Bruce Cassidy — who refers to the final third of the season as “winning time” — said it’s important that his squad go on a run and get some separation near the top.
“The guys are feeling it right now,” Cassidy said. “We need to build this thing so (by the start of the playoffs) we are rock solid ready to go and, hopefully, avoid the stressful situations of the last week of having to watch the scoreboard the whole time. That was the message coming out of the break.”
So far, so good.
The Golden Knights returned from the break with impressive back-to-back 5-1 road wins at Nashville and Minnesota before returning home to trounce the last-place Ducks. Vegas has allowed just four goals during its three-game winning streak.
“The biggest thing I’ve seen in the last three games: one goal against, one goal against, two goals against,” Cassidy said. “That’s what I’d like our team to look like going forward as long as I’m here. You’re in every game this way. And if goal scoring doesn’t happen for you, you can win 3-2 or 2-1. Absolutely this is what I’d like our identity to be.”
San Jose will be playing its fifth game since its break. The Sharks started with an impressive three-game road trip that saw them begin with a 4-3 overtime win at Tampa Bay and end with a 4-1 victory at Washington. They returned home for a 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh.
The Sharks are a league-worst 5-13-7 at home this season but are a respectable 12-14-4 on the road, including a 5-2 win over the Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on Nov. 15 when they scored four times in the third period. Timo Meier, the object of strong trade rumors, scored the game-winner on a power play with 2:48 remaining, and San Jose added a pair of empty-netters after that.
Meier scored his 31st goal of the season with 4:13 remaining on Tuesday to cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 2-1 before Jake Guentzel sealed the win for the Penguins with an empty-netter with 38 seconds left.
“Certainly disappointed with the result but I really liked our game tonight,” San Jose coach David Quinn said. “I thought it was a really good hockey game, fast-paced. I thought both teams were incredibly competitive, both goalies played well, and we just came up on the short end of it.”
Following Thursday’s game, San Jose opens a seven-game homestand and doesn’t play another road game until March 6 at Winnipeg.
–Field Level Media