Knights, Sharks renew rivalry on opening night
The Vegas Golden Knights have had a little more than five months to stew over the controversial ending of their first-round Western Conference playoff series with the San Jose Sharks.
Thanks to the NHL's schedule-maker, they won't have to wait this season for a rematch.
The teams will meet Wednesday night in Las Vegas on the league's opening night. Two nights later, the teams -- which are expected to battle for the Pacific Division title -- will play again in San Jose.
"Doesn't matter," Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said about opening the season with back-to-back games with the Sharks. "We played them seven times last year in the playoffs, so you get used to teams. They know us, we know them, we're just getting ready for the home opener, and it should be a great game."
In 2018, the Golden Knights knocked off San Jose in six games in the second round of the conference playoffs in their initial season en route to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Washington Capitals. But the Sharks got revenge last April by winning the final three games of their best-of-seven series in dramatic fashion.
Vegas had a 3-0 lead midway through Game 7 in San Jose when Cody Eakin was assessed a five-minute major penalty for cross-checking Joe Pavelski on a faceoff. An off-balance Pavelski collided with Paul Stastny and was knocked to the ice, where he banged his head and was knocked out while also sustaining a nasty gash.
The Sharks then scored four goals in 4:01 to take the lead, just the second time in NHL history that a team scored four goals on a power play in a playoff game. Jonathan Marchessault sent the game into overtime with a goal with 47 seconds remaining, but San Jose capped the remarkable comeback when Barclay Goodrow scored the series-winner at the 18:19 mark in OT.
NHL officials later acknowledged that Eakin should have been called for just a two-minute minor instead of a five-minute major.
"It's so disappointing," Marchessault said afterward. "It's a joke. That's what it is. It's embarrassing."
The penalty has been a hot topic during the offseason for disappointed Vegas fans. Overlooked was the fact the Golden Knights also blew two other chances to clinch the series before that, including a 2-1 loss in double overtime at home in Game 6, when Vegas finished with a 59-29 edge in shots and lost on a short-handed goal by Tomas Hertl.
Pavelski, who scored a team-high 38 goals, has moved on as an unrestricted free agent to sign with the Dallas Stars.
San Jose also will be without left winger Evander Kane, who scored 30 goals last season, after he received a three-game suspension for physical abuse of an official during a 5-1 preseason loss at Vegas on Sunday. That contest featured 114 penalty minutes and a handful of third-period dustups as the teams geared up for Wednesday night's season opener.
The good news for the Sharks is two-time Norris Award winning defenseman Erik Karlsson, who played just 53 games last season and was hampered in the playoffs by a groin injury, is healthy again after undergoing offseason surgery.
"When he wants to go, he can go, and that's a positive," said center Logan Couture, who led the team with 14 playoff goals and took over for Pavelski as team captain. "You just hoped he recovered from that surgery, and it looks like he has."
--Field Level Media
Updated October 1, 2019