Knights handle Sharks in preseason finale

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The preliminaries are over. It’s time for the main event.

Take that literally if you wish.

The Vegas Golden Knights already know the San Jose Sharks pretty well given they’ve squared off in the Stanley Cup Playoffs each of the last two years. Sunday, they met each other in both teams’ final prep for the 2019-20 NHL season, where they’ll open the year against each other Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena. The two teams will then battle at the SAP Center in San Jose Friday.

Sunday, it was all Vegas. Five different Golden Knights scored. Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside 38 of 39 shots as the Knights posted a 5-1 victory in front of 18,131 at T-Mobile and finished the preseason 5-2 in a game that had 114 minutes in penalties called. San Jose ended up the exhibition schedule just 1-5.

There were hard feelings in the aftermath of last year’s opening round of the playoffs, which went the full seven games and saw the Sharks rally from a 4-0 deficit to win in overtime and eliminate the Knights after San Jose took advantage in a five-minute major assessed to Vegas’ Cody Eakin midway through the third period.

You know what transpired. But for the Knights, they’ll handle any retribution when the games count for real on Wednesday, though there were some altercations Sunday. But the preseason finale was more about sorting things out for the start of the regular season and there was a lot for VGK coach Gerard Gallant to like.

“There was a little bush stuff but I thought there was more intensity the other night against L.A.,” Gallant said. ”I thought the young guys all played well and they got better throughout the camp. They’re making it hard for us to make decisions and that’s what they’re supposed to do.”

Cody Glass appears to be staying in Las Vegas as Alex Tuch and Eakin are out with upper-body injuries. The rookie center was paired with veterans Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone and looked like he belonged in the NHL. He did a solid job at both ends of the ice.

Nic Hague, who is trying to win a job on the blueline, had a strong game. Paired with Brayden McNabb, Hague was not overwhelmed at all. Same for fellow rookie defenseman Jimmy Schuldt, who scored in the second period.

All four lines were skating, playing at a fast pace throughout and the passing was crisp most of the time.

“I thought we played real well,” said Jonathan Marchessault, who had a second-period goal Sunday. “Every line was going.”

Hague said he felt comfortable.

“I felt good out there,” Hague said. “Playing with Nabber (McNabb), talking with each other on the ice, I thought we worked well together.”

However, the lingering bad blood between these two teams surfaced over the course of Sunday night’s finale. Evander Kane, the chief antagonist for San Jose, mixed it up twice in the second period with Valentin Zykov, then in the third period with Deryk Engelland. Backup goalie Aaron Dell threw a shoulder into Mark Stone and sent him careening into the boards. There were other skirmishes but those never escalated into full-blown hostilities.

The nastiness figures to rise when the games count. Hockey players have long memories and you can bet there’ll be carryover from Sunday to Wednesday, especially where Kane is concerned.

“We play them two times in a row so that’s going to be fun,” Hague said.

But Marchessault cautioned against reading too much into the preseason finale, saying: “(Sunday) didn’t matter. Wednesday, it’s about getting two points.”

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About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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