Alex Pietrangelo and Keegan Kolesar scored in the first period, Marc-Andre Fleury earned his 67th career shutout and the Vegas Golden Knights finished the regular season with a 6-0 victory Wednesday night over the San Jose Sharks that keeps them alive in the race for the division title.
“We played from game 1 right to the final buzzer of game 56 and threw our best record on the board,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “Hopefully it’s enough for first. If it isn’t, I’m still really happy with the regular season that we had.”
Vegas matched Colorado’s win over Los Angeles and remains two points ahead of the Avalanche in the West Division and for the top mark in the NHL. Colorado holds the tiebreaker based on regular-season wins and can take the top spot by beating the Kings on Thursday night.
The Golden Knights will have to wait until then to determine whether they will play third-place Minnesota or fourth-place St. Louis in the first round of the playoffs.
“Hopefully we get a little luck and have a big game from LA and finish first,” forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “If not, I thought our good season was good overall. Despite who we play in the first round, I think our team is ready for the playoffs.”
Dylan Sikura scored twice in the third period, and William Carrier and Marchessault also scored to help Vegas complete a sweep of the eight-game season series against the Sharks. Fleury made 17 saves.
San Jose missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons from the first since 1996 and ’97 with just 49 points in 56 games.
They were completely outplayed by a motivated Golden Knights, getting outshout 35-13 in the first two periods and giving little help to rookie goalie Alexei Melnichuk. Melnichuk made 38 saves in his second career start.
“Let’s be honest, we played a real good hockey team tonight and we weren’t very good at all,” coach Bob Boughner said. “We didn’t get a crazy amount of help. I don’t put much of this on him.”
The Golden Knights didn’t take long to jump on top of the Sharks by scoring twice in the opening eight minutes.
Pietrangelo got a loose puck in front and beat Melnichuk for the first goal and Kolesar added to the lead when he converted a rebound.
Vegas didn’t let up from there and put the game out of reach with the goals from Carrier and Marchessault in the second period.
“In this type of game like that, you want to get the will out of the opponent as fast as you can, and we did,” Marchessault said,
Sharks forward Patrick Marleau got some gifts in what could have been his final game with the franchise. His teammates gave him a custom painting of him and Gordie Howe to honor Marleau’s breaking Howe’s NHL all-times games played record last month. At the request of the Howe family, Marleau also was given the stick Howe used in his final NHL game that had been displayed at the Hall of Fame. That stick will be replaced in the Hall by a stick Marleau used in the record-setting game.
Marleau was the last player to leave the ice and acknowledged the small crowd on hand for the final game of the season.
“If it is his last game in the NHL, I’m happy I had a front row seat for it,” said DeBoer, who coached Marleau in San Jose. “Happy I had the opportunity to coach him for a few years in San Jose. As great a player as he is and as accomplished a hockey player he is, he’s a better person, a better father and a better guy.”
The 41-year-old Marleau will be a free agent this offseason and the Sharks might look to go in a younger direction next season.
Golden Knights: Waiting to find out their playoff opponent.
Sharks: The offseason.
This story will be updated throughout the game
FIRST PERIOD: Marc-Andre Fleury in net for Knights.
Knights goal Alex Pietrangelo (7) (Backhand shot). KNIGHTS 1, SHARKS 0.
Knights goal Keegan Kolesar (3) Assist Nicolas Roy (9). KNIGHTS 2, SHARKS 0. Shots on goal: Knights 20, Sharks 6.
SECOND PERIOD: Knights goal William Carrier 6 (Assists: Alex Tuch 15, Brayden McNabb 6). KNIGHTS 3, SHARKS 0.
Knights goal Jonathan Marchessault 18 (Assists: Reilly Smith 11, Zach Whitecloud 10), KNIGHTS 4, SHARKS 0. Shots on goal: Knights 35, Sharks 13.
THIRD PERIOD: Knights goal Dylan Sikura (1) (Wrist shot) (Assists: Mattias Janmark 13). KNIGHTS 5, SHARKS 0.
This is the game preview
Vegas Golden Knights (39-14-2, first in the West Division) vs. San Jose Sharks (21-27-7, sixth in the West Division)
San Jose, California; Wednesday, 6 p.m. PDT
Sharks +156, Golden Knights -193
BOTTOM LINE: Mark Stone and Vegas square off against San Jose. He ranks 10th in the in the league with 61 points, scoring 21 goals and recording 40 assists.
The Sharks are 21-27-7 against West Division teams. San Jose averages 9.2 penalty minutes per game, the seventh-most in the NHL. Kurtis Gabriel leads the team serving 55 total minutes.
The Golden Knights are 39-14-2 against the rest of their division. Vegas has scored 184 goals and is fifth in the NHL averaging 3.4 goals per game. Max Pacioretty leads the team with 24.
Vegas took down San Jose 5-2 in the last meeting between these teams on April 21. Jonathan Marchessault scored two goals for the Golden Knights in the victory.
TOP PERFORMERS: Evander Kane leads the Sharks with 22 goals and has 49 points. Tomas Hertl has six goals over the last 10 games for San Jose.
Pacioretty leads the Golden Knights with 24 goals and has 51 points. Marchessault has 11 points over the last 10 games for Vegas.
LAST 10 GAMES: Sharks: 3-5-2, averaging 3.1 goals, 4.5 assists, 3.4 penalties and 7.1 penalty minutes while giving up 3.7 goals per game with an .887 save percentage.
Golden Knights: 7-3-0, averaging 3.5 goals, 5.6 assists, 3.7 penalties and 7.7 penalty minutes while allowing 2.3 goals per game with a .916 save percentage.
INJURIES: Sharks: Radim Simek: day to day (upper body), John Leonard: day to day (upper-body), Matt Nieto: out (lower body).
Golden Knights: Peyton Krebs: out (upper body), Alec Martinez: day to day (undisclosed), Tomas Nosek: out (undisclosed), Max Pacioretty: day to day (undisclosed).