If one game encapsulated all of the Golden Knights’ frustrations this season, it was Sunday’s.
Seemingly home free with a two-goal lead against San Jose late in the third period, the Knights stumbled when they could least afford it.
San Jose rookie Thomas Bordeleau scored the lone goal in the shootout, and the Knights saw their playoff hopes take a hit with a 5-4 setback to the Sharks on Sunday in the home finale at T-Mobile Arena.
“Definitely not the outcome we wanted,” captain Mark Stone said. “Really a devastating loss, but we’re still in it. You have to think that way. We have to have a big game on Tuesday to keep our chances alive.”
The loss was the first for the Knights in their past 12 meetings with the rival Sharks and leaves them three points behind Dallas for the second wild card with three games remaining.
The Knights visit the Stars in a must-win game Tuesday to open a season-ending road trip and will need help to reach the postseason for the fifth straight season.
Timo Meier, who called this the Sharks’ biggest game of the year, scored on a rebound with 0.9 seconds remaining in regulation for San Jose and tied the score 4-4. Nick Bonino’s second goal of the game had cut into the Knights lead at 17:54 of the third.
“They threw some pucks to the net and got some bounces,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “It’s a tough way to lose a point after we put in quite a bit of hard work. But we’ve got no time to sit and worry about it. You hope that it doesn’t cost us a playoff spot. If it does, that’s a tough one to sleep on all summer.”
Stone had a chance to seal the win in the final minute but hit the outside of the net with San Jose goaltender James Reimer off for an extra attacker. In the overtime, the Knights had a chance in overtime on the power play but couldn’t convert.
Nicolas Roy, Jack Eichel and Shea Theodore were unsuccessful against Reimer in the shootout, handing the Knights their first loss to the Sharks since Nov. 21, 2019.
Max Pacioretty put the Knights ahead 2-1 in the second period with a power move down the right wing before he fired a shot into the upper corner for his 17th goal. William Carrier, who was activated from long-term injured reserve and played his first game since March 26, also scored in the second.
Pacioretty and Chandler Stephenson each finished with a goal and an assist for the Knights. Roy added a goal in the third period and put the Knights on top 4-2, also finishing with two points.
“I thought we played a strong game there up until we let two in,” Pacioretty said. “That’s on everybody, and we have to know that we’re capable of winning those games and closing out those games no matter who we’re playing against.
“We knew that team was hungry over there to try to make our season a little bit more difficult on us. It’s not going to be easy these last three games. We have to play right to the end and give ourselves a chance”.
Here’s what stood out from the game:
1. Mystery solved
After days of speculation about who would start in net for the Knights, Logan Thompson earned the nod.
Thompson finished with 25 stops in regulation and overtime. He made a backdoor stop on Alexander Barabanov in the first period and turned away Meier on a breakaway after he hopped out of the penalty box in the second period.
The announced crowd of 18,367 exploded late in the third when Thompson poked-checked the puck away from Logan Couture and stopped Sasha Chmelevski on the follow-up shot. He stopped the first two attempts in the shootout before Bordeleau scored.
“He’s a young goalie put into a tough spot. He’s playing and giving us a chance to win every night,” Stone said. “I think he’s obviously upset, but he’s one of 25 guys who are upset with what happened tonight. He’s got to hold his head up high and get ready for Tuesday because we need them.”
Robin Lehner served as the backup after ESPN and The Athletic reported he was undergoing season-ending surgery. The Knights did not have enough salary cap space to recall a goaltender from Henderson.
2. Meat Grinders 2.0
The fourth line had a different look for the majority of the regular season, with the Knights opting for skill over brawn.
But Carrier was activated from long-term injured reserve after missing the past 10 games, and DeBoer teamed him with Roy and winger Keegan Kolesar to form a heavy line.
That trio started the game and set a physical tone early, dishing out four hits on the opening shift and combining for six hits in the first period.
They also teamed up to put the Knights ahead 3-1 in the second period, as Kolesar centered to a wide-open Carrier for his first goal since March 13. Carrier matched his career high for goals (eight) and points (19) in a season.
However, Kolesar was injured late in the second period and did not return.
“I really liked the feel of that. I loved what they brought. Their physicality. The way they got on the forecheck,” DeBoer said. “It was a glimpse of what we’ve kind of been waiting for but obviously with (Kolesar) going out, that changed.”
3. Exclusive club
Stephenson’s breakout season continued, as he pocketed two points and hit two significant personal milestones.
In the first period, he cleaned up a rebound on a power play and reached 20 goals for the first time in his career. He is the third member of the Knights to hit the mark, joining Jonathan Marchessault and Evgenii Dadonov.
Stephenson also picked up an assist on Pacioretty’s go-ahead goal in the second period and his 41 helpers are fourth on the Knights’ single-season list. He has 61 points after producing 55 points combined in his first three seasons in the league.
Contact David Schoen at email@example.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.