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LAS VEGAS (AP) After a lackluster loss two nights (11th Feb 19 at 7:57am UTC)
LAS VEGAS (AP) After a lackluster loss two nights earlier Adidas Dustin Tokarski Jersey , the Vegas Golden Knights responded with an energetic performance in Game 5 to move one victory away from their second playoff series win, and a berth in the Western Conference final in their inaugural season.Alex Tuch scored twice to lead Vegas to a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Friday night, giving the Golden Knights a 3-2 series lead in their conference semifinal.”We were physical, we were playing well, and it was a very good game by everyone,” Tuch said. ”Every game is a must-win, and at times in this series we kind of got away from that, especially Game 4 … but I thought we came out tonight and we had 20 guys working really hard. It was a strong game by everyone.”James Neal, Erik Haula and Jonathan Marchessault also scored for Vegas. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 27 shots, making save after highlight save until things got interesting late in the third period.With San Jose trailing 4-0, Kevin Labanc, Tomas Hertl and Boedker scored in a 6:09 span to pull the Sharks within one with 4:16 remaining. However, Marchessault’s empty-netter with 21 seconds left sealed it for Vegas.”Fleury played really well and we left him out to dry a little bit in the third, but I thought we finished strong,” Tuch added.From a spectacular glove save on Mikkel Boedker’s point blank shot in the first period, to a pair of back-to-back saves before and after being knocked into the goal midway through the second period, or an incredible pad save on Tomas Hertl early in the third, Fleury was dialed in from the start.But it wasn’t until Marchessault’s long-range wrist shot that the 14-year veteran goalie was able o exhale.”I had a great view, I was right behind it Adidas Robin Lehner Jersey , it was great, I was so happy to see it going in,” Fleury said. ”It doesn’t matter when you get (wins) in a series, as long as you win. They’re all big. Obviously, it was nice to be home and get that win.”Martin Jones allowed four goals on 31 shots before being pulled in the third. Aaron Dell came on and stopped all six shots he faced.Game 6 is Sunday in San Jose.After looking lethargic in a 4-0 loss in Game 4 on the Sharks’ home ice, the Golden Knights came out refreshed and looking more like the team that won Game 1 by a 7-0 final. Vegas set the tone in the first period, outshooting the Sharks 15-7, outhitting them 26-14, and taking a 1-0 lead.”The other night we played okay, but it wasn’t good enough to win. You’re not gonna win many games in the playoffs if you don’t play your best hockey,” Vegas 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.”Neal made sure the Golden Knights didn’t head into the locker room empty-handed after a strong first period. Logan Couture blocked Shea Theodore’s shot from the point, with the rebound going right to Neal, who drilled it past Jones to give Vegas the lead with 3 seconds left in the period.Tuch made it 2-0 when he tapped in Reilly Smith’s rebound past Jones on the power play.Jones may still be trying to figure out how Haula scored, as he threw the puck at the net from the goal line and it somehow slipped through to make it 3-0 midway through the second.Tuch pushed the lead to 4-0 with an exquisite tip over Jones’ glove at 8:36 of the third, while ending the night for Jones.The Sharks ended Fleury’s bid for a fourth shutout this postseason when Labanc sniped a wrist shot top shelf, glove-side for a power-play goal to make it 4-1 at 9:35. Less than two minutes later San Jose made things interesting when Boedker’s wraparound got loose, and Hertl was in the right spot to poke it in and cut Vegas’ lead to 4-2.With a little more than four minutes left in the game, and Fleury sprawled out in front of the net behind a slew of traffic, Boedker picked up a loose puck and lifted it over the pile to make it 4-3.”They came out hard and when you’re kind of feeding them that transition game Adidas Leo Komarov Jersey , they’ll show you what they can do with it,” San Jose center Joe Pavelski said. ” When that score is within two or three, you’re feelin’ it. We knew we had to get in there and create a little bit more. We felt we had a chance for sure. The game got better at the end, so that needs to continue now.”NOTES: A record 18,693 filled T-Mobile Arena for Game 5. … Veteran D Luca Sbisa saw his first action since Feb. 27 for the Golden Knights, replacing Jon Merrill. … Vegas F Oscar Lindberg made his playoff debut, taking Tomas Tatar’s place on Cody Eakin’s line, while Ryan Carpenter also returned to the Golden Knights’ lineup, taking Tomas Nosek’s spot on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s line along with William Carrier. BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Sabres are on such a roll, captain Jack Eichel was having difficulty recalling the last time they lost.“Um, was it Calgary?” Eichel said Monday, before being reminded the 2-1 overtime defeat to the Flames was three losses ago.“Yeah, Rangers, in New York,” he said, finally recalling a 3-1 loss on Nov. 4 that dropped Buffalo’s record to 7-6-2.Nine games — and nine wins — later, the Sabres are the NHL’s biggest surprise two months into the season.A year after going 25-45-12 and becoming the league’s first team to finish 31st following the addition of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, the surging Sabres (16-6-2) have 34 points and sit one back of league-leading Tampa Bay and Nashville.“Just to think of where we came from a year ago Adidas Valtteri Filppula Jersey , and to be winning games and doing this, obviously it’s great,” Eichel said.Even Phil Housley could crack a smile when asked to reflect on the troubles he and his underachieving team endured last season, his first as coach.“I try to tend to forget last year,” Housley said.The Sabres were so bad a year ago, they didn’t register their 16th victory until Feb. 10, and won consecutive games four times, including a season-best 3-0 run in late January.Buffalo’s nine-game streak is the NHL’s longest since Columbus won 10 straight in March, and it’s one short of matching the Sabres’ franchise record set twice and most recently when they opened the 2006-07 on a 10-0 run. The Sabres would match that if they beat San Jose on Tuesday night.“Extremely proud of this team,” Sabres co-owner Kim Pegula wrote in a text to The Associated Press.“Everyone is contributing in multiple ways, and when that happens anything is possible,” she added. “There’s still plenty of hockey left to play, but we are encouraged by the foundation that is being built and look forward to seeing the development continue.”Buffalo’s turnaround is the result of a series of moves and soul-searching sessions that took place over the summer in a bid to spur a team that was the worst in the league in three of the past five seasons.It began with Housley, who took action at the end of last season after center Ryan O’Reilly went public in saying a losing mentality had crept into the locker room. Housley challenged his leadership group with a summer-long series of frank discussions that allowed players to air their differences and raise concerns.“I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I think the guys made a huge commitment in the summer. We talked about change,” Housley said. “It started with our leadership group leading in the right way.”Forward Kyle Okposo credited everyone for buying in.“It’s pretty powerful what you can do if you get everybody on the same page, and people are willing to admit what they have to do to be better and then actually do it,” Okposo said. “It feels like a team. It’s pretty amazing.”General manager Jason Botterill followed by overhauling the lineup through a series of trades that included sending O’Reilly to St. Louis. He also acquired Conor Sheary from Pittsburgh and Jeff Skinner from Carolina, and upgraded his goaltending by signing Carter Hutton in free agency.Skinner’s 18 goals rank second in the league Adidas Dylan DeMelo Jersey , while Hutton is third with 11 wins.And then came the addition of rookie No. 1 draft pick Rasmus Dahlin , whose effortless skating and deft playmaking ability have energized what had been a plodding group of defensemen.Dahlin’s two goals and 13 points are tied for second among NHL rookies. And he’s part of a defensive group that has already contributed 12 goals after managing just 19 last season.The 18-year-old shrugs off the Sabres’ hot start.“Of course it’s awesome to lead the league, but for me, I like to win, and I’m pretty used to it,” Dahlin said. “I’m so happy that everyone is so glad in the locker room.”One major change has been the Sabres’ performance in close games. Buffalo has a league-best 9-0-2 record in games decided by one goal, a year after going 11-11-12. The Sabres are also 9-6-1 when tied or trailing after two periods, a year after going 9-44-7.During their nine-game run, the Sabres won after trailing six times, including overcoming a 4-1 deficit in a 5-4 overtime win at Pittsburgh on Nov. 19. And the game-winning goals have been scored by nine different players.Forward Jason Pominville, in his second stint with Buffalo, is the lone holdover from the 2006-07 team that won 10 in a row. He’s suddenly feeling rejuvenated.“How can you not? It’s been a lot of fun,” said Pominville, who can recall the Sabres playing to loud, sold-out home crowds, as opposed to a sometimes half-empty building last year.The next step for Buffalo: ending its franchise-worst seven-year playoff drought.“It’s nice for the guys that have been here for a while to finally see what this city is all about when you win,” Pominville said. “Hopefully, they can get a chance to see the next level of this.”
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