Since the San Jose Sharks dropped the Stanley Cup Final to Pittsburgh two seasons ago, the club continues to demonstrate signs of aging. Oh, the window of opportunity may be open – at least, for now – but key late mistakes by Sharks veterans were the difference as they fell to the Vegas Golden Knights, 5-3, Thursday at SAP Center.
Case-in-point: all-star defenseman Brent Burns, a 14-year veteran known for winning the 2016-17 Norris Trophy winner, who also holds the distinction for his "out there" beard.
Burns' play has been all over the map. He started the season with just seven points in 19 games, then hit the ignition for 40 points in his last 35 outings, including a season-high equaling three assists to give San Jose a 3-2 third-period lead on the Golden Knights.
But Burns played a poor final 12 minutes, leading to a pair of Vegas goals to grab the lead for keeps, running the Knights' record to 13-1-1 vs. Pacific Division opponents this season.
Burns went for a fake slap shot by Vegas blue-liner Brayden McNabb, giving him room avoid a poke check and bulldog up the left wing. Releasing an open wrist shot from the faceoff dot, McNabb beat San Jose goalie Martin Jones on the short side to make it 3-all at 9:20. For McNabb, it was his career-high third goal of the campaign.
Five minutes, later, James Neal scored to give the Knights the lead. Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made 15 of his 35 saves in the first period and finished with his 391st career victory, as Vegas complete the road trip with a 4-2-0 mark to expand its division lead to a season-best 12 points.
Jonathan Marchessault had an assist, then drew a late penalty which set up his empty-net goal to cap the scoring. The other goals for Vegas (36-14-4) were by Erik Haula and William Karlsson. Perron, Colin Miller and Reilly Smith each added a pair of assists.
Knights Knotes – Vegas is 17-11-2 on the road, two wins behind the 1993-94 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim for most by an NHL team in its inaugural season... The Golden Knights had a power-play goal for the ninth straight game... Perron played his 700th NHL game... Pavelski won 15 of 22 face-offs (68 percent). VGK leads the season series, 2-0. The final two meetings will take place over the last nine days in March... Up next, Vegas plays nine of its next 10 at home, starting with a 7-game homestand on Sunday, hosting Philadelphia at 5 p.m.