LAS VEGAS – Alex Tuch scored two goals and the Vegas Golden Knights held off a late surge from the San Jose Sharks to earn a 5-3 victory in Game 5 of their Western Conference Semifinals series at T-Mobile Arena on Friday night.
After playing subpar in Game 4, Vegas came out strong in front of a raucous home crowd. The Golden Knights put up 15 shots in the opening 20 minutes but none was bigger than Jame Neal’s tally with three seconds left in the first period to put Vegas up a goal going into the middle stanza.
San Jose was limited to just seven shots in the opening frame.
“You’re not gonna win many games in the playoffs if you don’t play your best hockey,” Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant said. “Tonight we came out for 50 minutes and played our best hockey and really set the tone. We got into some penalty trouble at the end and gave them a chance to get back in the game.”
Game 6 is Sunday in San Jose.
The second period saw even more aggression from Vegas and they showed why they just might be the best expansion team in sports history. Tuch scored his first of the night by banging home a rebound off San Jose netminder Martin Jones’ pads and into the net.
Erik Haula quickly made it 3-0 for the Golden Knights with a goal that looked impossible if it was not for instant replay. He shot the puck from the goal line, which somehow got through Jones as Vegas took a three-goal advantage into the final frame.
A rush of speed down the ice from Tuch sent Martin Jones to the showers early as he scored his second goal of the evening, putting Vegas up four. Aaron Dell would come in to relieve Jones on his 29th birthday of all days.
San Jose would start their rally with 9:27 left in regulation as Kevin LeBlanc beat Vegas goaltender Marc Andre-Fleury to make it 4-1. Then less than two minutes later, Tomas Hertl put home a rebound of his own to cut the Golden Knights’ lead to just two goals.
Mikkel Boedker found a way to beat Fleury through a pile of bodies in front of the cage to make it a 4-3 game with 4:16 to play in regulation. The Sharks would score three goals in a span of 6:09 but that is far as they would come.
Vegas sealed their win and series lead with Jonathan Marchessault’s empty-net goal with less than a minute to go.
Fleury stopped 27 shots he faced, while Jones had 27 saves but was pulled after allowing four goals. Dell made six stops in a relief effort.
The loss now has San Jose on the brink of elimination and will need to win two consecutive games to win the series, something neither team has been able to do.
“We have to play harder for longer stretches if we’re going to win this series,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said.