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Carp: Jonny Greco’s Contributions To Golden Knights Etched In Stone

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

Where to begin?

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The music. The cheerleaders. The mascots. The pregame and between periods videos. The skits on the ice. The arena hosts and hostess.

The in-game experience at T-Mobile Arena is unmatched in the NHL. I know. I’ve been in every rink and I can tell you for a fact nothing rivals the emotional feeling and the energy that comes once you step inside The Fortress.

Of course, I’m pretty much preaching to the choir here. But the man responsible for most, if not all of it, has decided to move on.

You may recognize the name. A few of you can even place the face. But the handiwork of Jonny Greco is known to all of you because he made sure you were part of it all.

Whether it was the third period exhortation for everyone to yell and clap during an ice maintenance, or singing “Sweet Golden Knights” and “Home Means Nevada” between periods, or having celebrities and fans alike crank up the siren to begin each period, Greco made sure you were and remained engaged, regardless of the score.

And whether you love everything about attending a Golden Knights game or only a small portion of it, you have Greco to thank.

This is from the press release put out by the team back on April 7, 2017 announcing Greco’s hiring:

Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world. We recognize and embrace the expectations that come along with playing our games here from a performance perspective. Jonny possesses a unique background that spans multiple professional teams, leagues and sports entertainment entities. His creative vision will help us produce exceptional in-game presentation and entertainment, which will create memorable and enjoyable experiences for our fans. –Kerry Bubolz, Golden Knights president

So when word got out Friday that Greco was leaving the Strip for Broadway (He has reportedly taken a job with Madison Square Garden), it was an end of an era of sorts. But the stamp he las left on the franchise is indelible.

Thinks about this: When was the last time a network, any network, decided to show the pregame show on the air?

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Ref You Suck: Subpar Officiating Hurting NHL’s Image, Integrity

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

I’m not one to blame officials for the outcome of games. I always believe that you make your own luck in sports. And I have yet to see a referee actually score a touchdown, sink a basket or put a puck in the net.

But when the officiating negatively impacts the outcome of games, you have a credibility problem.

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

We see it in the NFL. We see it in Major League Baseball. We see it in college football and college basketball. And we certainly see it in the NHL.

Every team in the league falls victim to inept officiating and the Golden Knights are obviously not immune. I won’t even go into Game 7. I’ll just give you Exhibits A and B from Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Winnipeg.

Exhibit A was Ryan Gibbons’ waving off icing in the third period which led to the Jets tying the game 3-3. The linesman had initially put his hand up for icing, then had a change of heart and waved it off.

Nate Schmidt, who was in pursuit of the puck and was closest to it as it crossed the goal line, could not have made a play. By rule, the whistle should have blown since there’s no-touch icing in the NHL.

Instead, Schmidt loses an edge, crashes into the end boards, Kyle Connor scoops up the puck and feeds Mark Scheifele, who was alone in front and beats Malcom Subban.

Tie game.

Watch the video. Gibbons has his hand up. The Golden Knights players see it and react the way you normally would as they gear down and look to head to the Winnipeg end for the ensuing faceoff.

Instead, there’s never a whistle, the goal counts and there was nothing Gerard Gallant could do about it. It’s a discretionary call by the linesman and not subject to review.

They didn’t really have an explanation. They knew they made a mistake, bottom line. So, we just moved on. -Gallant

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Carp: The Real Golden Knights Re-appear

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

It’s rare I get to write live after a Golden Knights game. But when there’s a Sunday late afternoon affair, I try to take advantage of it.

Obviously, the Knights needed to make a 180-degree turnaround from Friday’s God-awful performance against Colorado. I wouldn’t even call it a sub-par effort because to do that, you’d have to have shown some effort, which Vegas did not do.

You knew changes were coming from Gerard Gallant. Nicolas Roy made his VGK debut centering the fourth line with Tomas Nosek moving up to the third line and Brandon Pirri being scratched.

It’s more about Gallant sending a message rather than the actual moves themselves, though the moves definitely paid dividends as Roy scored his first NHL goal, was a forechecking fool playing with William Carrier and Ryan Reaves and was hitting everything in sight in the Knights’ 5-2 win at T-Mobile Arena.

Pirri was goal-less in nine games so there was no harm in dropping him from the lineup. But it’s more Gallant expressing his displeasure about the inconsistent play from his team, and, more concerning, the lack of effort over 60 minutes.

When the Knights are good and winning games, it’s because they’re outworking their opponents, they’re playing fast and they’re forechecking the hell out of the other team’s defense, forcing turnovers and setting up scoring chances.

We haven’t seen that on a consistent basis this year. So that has nothing to do with Nate Schmidt and Alex Tuch being out. This is about busting your ass during your shift. Gallant should never, ever, have to coach effort.

The effort was much better Sunday. And Gallant had little, if anything to complain about. Especially after his team tightened up defensively all over the ice. The Knights allowed just 15 Anaheim shots, the fewest in the franchise’s brief history.

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Carp: Should Russian Players Be Concerned About Playing For The Golden Knights?

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

By nature, I’m no conspiracy theorist.

I don’t believe in aliens. I think Oswald acted alone when he assassinated JFK. I’m pretty sure Elvis is dead, though when I see Nick Ferraro perform as the “Philly Elvis,” sometimes a shadow of doubt creeps into my mind (only kidding).

But I have to admit, what I’m seeing with Russian-born players and the Golden Knights has me scratching my head and wondering just what the hell is going on?

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

In the brief three-year history of the franchise, there have been three Russian players who were with the Golden Knights — Vadim Shipachyov, Nikita Gusev and Valentin Zykov. Their contributions have amounted to virtually nil. Two of the three have not had pleasant endings and Zykov could also find himself exiting with a less-than-favorable sendoff once his 20-game suspension ends.

First, let’s be clear about all of this. I’m not accusing George McPhee of sabotaging the NHL careers of the trio. Remember, this is the guy who drafted Alex Ovechkin when he was the general manager in Washington and no one’s going to deny that worked out pretty well.

So if you want to paint McPhee as a modern-day Harold Ballard who detested the Russians and perhaps saw their existence in the NHL as a necessary evil, you’d be missing the mark by a country mile.

That said, the fact none of the three have made a positive contribution to the franchise makes you wonder if something is amiss in the evaluation process or in the projection of what these guys could do.

Shipachyov didn’t produce, was sent to the minors, balked at being demoted and was eventually released after playing just three games and scoring one goal. He and his family never found a comfort level in Las Vegas nor was he able to find a comfort level on the ice. He is currently back in the Kontinental Hockey League playing with Dynamo Moscow and he leads the team in scoring with 21 points.

Gusev never got a chance to show he couldn’t play with the Knights. He was unable to break into the lineup during the playoffs, his time on the ice limited to practice. And when the Knights found his asking price to remain with the team was too steep, he was off to New Jersey. He’s doing pretty well with the Devils. He had three goals and four points in his first seven games and has quickly become a fan favorite in Newark.

Zykov, who had two goals in 10 games last year playing limited minutes (he averaged 11:37 TOI during his 10 games last year), worked hard over the summer, made the team out of training camp and had two assists in his first seven games playing on the third line before he got popped for violating the NHL’s performance-enhancing substances program.

I’m not going to get into the whole issue about how it went down, how Zykov essentially got thrown under the bus by some of his teammates and how McPhee reacted. That has all been covered.

I will say it would be disingenuous to think what happened to Zykov and what happened to Nate Schmidt a year ago are the same. The fact is, we’ve never known what was found in Schmidt’s system to trigger the positive test and we’re probably never going to know what exactly Zykov was taking (he and his agent said they were over-the-counter supplements).

Until the NHL becomes more transparent with its drug policy and the testing is more rigorous, you’ll never get the truth.

So, what happens when Zykov serves out his suspension? Do the Knights welcome him back? Do they claim he breached his contract and subsequently cut him loose and eat his $675,000 contract? Do they send him back to the AHL?

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Carp: Managing Injuries A Tricky Proposition

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

Every hockey team has to deal with injuries. But the successful ones manage theirs better.

The Golden Knights have been tested earlier than most teams. They started this season without forwards Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin, two key components. Then they lost defenseman Nate Schmidt on opening night after he and San Jose’s Logan Couture collided in the 1st period.

And of course, no injury report would be complete without including goaltender Malcom Subban, who got hurt Thursday in Arizona and forcing Marc-Andre Fleury to work on what was supposed to be a night off.

The Knights’ ability to manage their injuries has varied in their brief existence. They somehow were able to survive after Fleury sustained a concussion early in the inaugural season and wound up missing two months. They also lost Subban and Oscar Dansk during that time too.

And they always seem to manage to compensate whenever William Carrier self-destructs and goes on Injured Reserve. Carrier’s style of play lends himself to getting hurt but to ask him to adjust and play it safe would make him ineffective. He was superb Saturday in the 6-2 win over Calgary, registering a goal and an assist in what was the first multi-point game of his career. He has to play the way he does so you live with the consequences.

You could look at Schmidt’s 20 games missed due to suspension last year as an injury because it forced others to fill the gaps, something the defense didn’t do a particularly good job of. The team struggled without him. And with Schmidt out for who knows how long, once again, the defense is under the microscope.

The hope was the youngsters — Nic Hague, Jimmy Schuldt, perhaps Dylan Coghlan or Jake Bischoff would step up and play well enough to solidify things. So far, that hasn’t manifested itself. Coghlan started the season in the minors, Schuldt joined him Friday, Bischoff got recalled from the Wolves, Hague has not distinguished himself and who knows how long Gerard Gallant sticks with him?

There was some good news from the infirmary. Eakin returned to the lineup Saturday against the Flames and the Knights will welcome his ability in the faceoff circle to win draws, to kill penalties and, most important, spearhead a tenacious forecheck and create turnovers.

If there was a common thread in the losses to Boston and Arizona, it was the lack of a strong forecheck game by the Knights’ forwards. When the forecheck is working, the game becomes vastly different. Opposing teams can’t transition as easily from defense to offense. Scoring opportunities suddenly emerge. The ice gets tilted in Vegas’ favor.

Eakin helps provide that with his tenacity.

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Carp: Year Three Has Lots Of Meaning… And Motivation

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

And so it begins.

Year Three of the Golden Knights, a franchise which has done some remarkable things in its brief existence begins tonight at T-Mobile Arena. It’s a team that has a special relationship with its city and its fans. It’s a group of players who are yearning for a return to the inaugural season, except with a different outcome this time around.

“Cup in three” is the mantra from the owner, from the fans, from the owners of this very website. They believe it with every fiber of their being that this is the year.

Of course, the owners, fans and website operators from the other 30 NHL teams are thinking the same thing. For some, it’s more fantasy than reality. But when it’s opening night and everyone is 0-0, why shouldn’t every Ottawa Senators fan, every Anaheim Ducks fan, be at least a bit optimistic?

Here, it’s not about optimism. It’s about expectations. And the bar has been set relatively high. There’s continuity and stability throughout the organization. Yes, some pieces are gone (Erik Haula, Colin Miller, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Nikita Gusev), but others appear ready to take their place (Cody Glass, Jimmy Schuldt, Valentin Zykov). And the core remains in place.

Go ahead and dissect the roster. Look hard enough, you’ll find flaws. Every team has ’em. You will also find enough talent and experience to handle any shortcomings.

Aren’t you glad Mark Stone didn’t join Erik Karlsson in San Jose? Aren’t you pleased William Karlsson is going to be here for a long time? Aren’t you excited to see what Glass can do in an NHL game that counts?

And aren’t you glad nobody got popped for flunking a drug test and has to miss the first 20 games of the season?

Yes, it’s disappointing that Alex Tuch will once again miss opening night for the third straight year. But remember, it’s a long season. And as Marc-Andre Fleury proved in Year One, it’s all about April — and beyond.

So what am I looking forward to with this team in Year Three? In no particular order:

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

* Watching Paul Stastny perform his magic with his passing.

* Seeing Stone come back in the defensive zone, pick an opponent’s pocket and head the other way in making his case for a Selke Trophy.

* Watching Cody Eakin win a big defensive zone faceoff late in a game with the Knights trying to protect a one-goal lead.

* Getting double digits of goal cellys from Ryan Reaves.

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Carp: A Day For Reflection On A Team And A City And Their Mutual Love For Each Other

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s returns to for the 2019-20 season. His weekly column publishes every Sunday during the Golden Knights season and is brought to you by the Jimmerson Law Firm.**

I was driving home following Sunday’s preseason finale at T-Mobile Arena and I passed by the United Blood Services facility on West Charleston. I actually pass by it often on my way to my job as editor at Gaming Today. And every time I do, my thoughts circle back to October 3, 2017.

Why October 3rd?

It was less than 24 hours following the massacre across from Mandalay Bay where the Route 91 Harvest Festival become a killing zone. A deranged gunman let loose a barrage of death and destruction, cutting short the lives of 58 people he didn’t even know while wounding hundreds of others and changing the collective psyche Las Vegas forever.

I was one of the last to leave T-Mobile Arena following the Golden Knights’ final preseason game against San Jose. I left about 10 minutes before the shooting started. I’ve talked in the past about that evening, how my phone kept pinging with texts, ringing with calls, family and friends asking if everything was O.K. Watching the grim news unfold on the 11 p.m. news and knowing even though I covered hockey, my life was about to change.

Which brings me to October 3rd.

The Knights practiced at City National Arena that morning. As you can imagine, it was a somber atmosphere. As the players were on the ice, team management and staff were hard at work, trying to figure out how best the Knights could assist in the community while at the same time, having to quickly pivot from what they planned to do for the pregame ceremony for the October 10th home opener vs. Arizona. Remember, the Knights were scheduled to open on the road that Friday at Dallas, then travel to Arizona the next night.

As the players practiced, people were lining up at blood facilities all over Southern Nevada. At the United Blood Services on Charleston, the line snaked out the door and around the building as people waited hours to donate.

Most of the Knights players visited the blood bank. Many were at Metropolitan Police headquarters to meet with the police and other first responders who had performed so bravely hours before, preventing the death toll from climbing even higher. Still others went to the Family Assistance Center at the Las Vegas Convention Center to try and console families who were dealing with the loss or the injury of loved ones.

Remember, save for Deryk Engelland, none of the players and coaches had lived in Las Vegas. This was still a new place. Many were still trying to figure out how to get around the city. Sure, they knew how to get to practice and to the arena for games. They knew how to get to the Strip. But I’ll bet none of them knew where United Blood Services was. Or where Metro headquarters was. Or even the Convention Center. So for the players, this was surreal.

Remember, 10 Golden Knights got caught up in this the night before as they were at the Cosmopolitan having a team postgame dinner when the hotel was locked down along with everything else on the Strip. They had no idea what was really going on.

But by the morning of October 3rd, everyone knew. And to a man, they quickly did what they could to comfort the community which had already embraced them as its team, which had already invested, both financially and emotionally in them. Giving back? That was the easy thing to do. But to do it tastefully and respectfully? That was the tricky part.

The team was noticeably visible. And it cemented the bond between the city and its new hockey team. Las Vegas was going to need time to heal, time to get through this, and the Golden Knights made sure they would be with the city every step of the way.

And that is why this city loves the Golden Knights.

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Time To Look Ahead

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

There’s no sense in continuing to rehash the events of Tuesday’s third period of Game 7. What’s done is done.

If you feel like there’s a wee bit of vindication from the NHL apologizing to the Golden Knights and putting referees Dan O’Halloran and Eric Furlatt on the shelf for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I can’t say I blame you.

For some of you, you’re still pissed off at what took place and no amount of apologizing will change that. I understand that too. If you want to join general manager George McPhee and take the high road, fine.

But as we head to the remainder of spring and into the summer without hockey in Las Vegas, be prepared for the fact the team you love is going to look different come September when training camp opens.

How different? That remains to be seen. But it comes with the territory. No team stands completely pat, even when they win a Stanley Cup. So changes are coming.

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

McPhee has to get William Karlsson signed, hopefully, long term and at a reasonable price. Deryk Engelland and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare are unrestricted free agents. Both want to remain with the Golden Knights. Together, they made $2.95 million this season. Clearing their salaries could help with Karlsson though.

UFAs Brandon Pirri and Ryan Carpenter are less likely to remain. Tomas Nosek is an RFA but he too could find himself moving on.

Space needs to be created on the roster for Nikita Gusev and perhaps Cody Glass and Nic Hague, maybe Jimmy Schuldt. Erik Haula will be ready to resume his career after the gruesome knee injury he sustained in November.

And who knows what’s going to happen in the NHL Entry Draft in late June where the Golden Knights will pick 16th or 17th overall (depending on Colorado’s second round series). Will GMGM trade to move up? Will he trade down? Will he keep the pick and select someone the amateur scouting staff really covets?

They may lose assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon as well. Both Edmonton and Seattle are reportedly interested in bringing in McCrimmon on board as their general manager. And that piece of the plan may not be so easy to replace were McCrimmon to bolt Vegas though maybe Vaughn Karpan, the team’s director of player personnel, could be elevated into McCrimmon’s spot should he leave.

So believe it when I tell you this roster and opening night lineup figures to look different come October.

Hopefully the rules will be different too. McPhee was kinda lukewarm on the idea of being a proponent for change regarding the referees having the ability to look at replay to determine if a major penalty was committed. Owner Bill Foley had a much more definitive take:

I believe it should be a reviewable play, coaches challenge. I think a coach should be able to challenge in the playoffs. That’s going to be up to the league to make that determination. I believe the league is thinking about it and I think it’s going to be receptive to that kind of change. We will have a Board of Governors meeting here in a couple of months and I’m sure it will be brought up and we will talk about it. I think that will be a good solution, despite the fact the Sharks fans were going crazy over the perceived hit. If it would have been a coach’s challenge, it would have been reviewed and that wouldn’t have been a penalty. -Foley

When I asked GMGM directly about changing the rule, here was his response:

I don’t know how to answer that question. I think that’s for the league to determine, if they want to anything additional. If a five-minute penalty going to be called, should the referees review it to make sure they got it right? Or should they simply just call up to the supervisor upstairs, who has covered the whole series and that have the replays? They can tell the guys I have nothing on this one.

That’s for the league to determine and I haven’t thought it through. I have had a lot of time to think it through the last couple of nights since I haven’t slept, a lot of flashbacks. -McPhee

If I were a betting man on this issue, I’d put my money on Foley. I believe we will see a new policy adopted by the league for next season.

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A Tough Way To End

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

On April 16, the Golden Knights held a 3-1 series lead over San Jose. Everyone was making plans for the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Whether it was how you were going to pay for your playoff tickets, where you would attend a watch party or merely rearrange your schedule to watch or listen, you had every reason to believe your team was going to be playing hockey in May.

Problem was, no one bothered to tell the Sharks.

And while it will be part of the team’s and the NHL’s history that the third-period call on Cody Eakin which resulted in a five-minute major penalty that led to the Sharks scoring four times and ultimately eliminating the Knights 5-4 in overtime Tuesday night at SAP Center, the fact remains the Knights failed to seal the deal.

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

They got outplayed in Game 5. They failed to capitalize on numerous Grade-A chances in Game 6. They had a 3-0 lead in Game 7 with just under 11 minutes to play.

You want to blame the referees? I’m not going to dissuade you. The call wasn’t only egregious, it was on the wrong player. Yes, Eakin cross-checked Joe Pavelski. But it was Paul Stastny who hit Pavelski and caused him to fall to the ice. If anyone deserved to be sent off, it was No. 26.

Obviously the decision to assess a major rather than a two-minute penalty had a tremendous impact on the game. In addition to having played well Tuesday and scoring the second Vegas goal, Eakin was one of the Knights’ top penalty killers and with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare not even playing, that’s the team’s top two front-line killers missing.

Yet the Knights still had enough quality people on the ice to kill off the penalty. Reilly Smith, Tomas Nosek, Will Karlsson, Mark Stone, Deryk Engelland, Brayden McNabb — all took regular turns killing penalties this season and had been effective doing so.

The penalty kill essentially evaporated as the Sharks took full advantage of their man advantage to take the lead.

You still give up four goals on a power play, that’s just too many. Whether or not it’s a penalty or not, you still can’t do that. -Nate Schmidt

To the Knights’ credit, they found a way to respond with Jonathan Marchessault tying the game with 47 seconds left in regulation and forcing OT.

That said, the Sharks deserve credit for their resiliency, going back to Game 5. They never gave up and whether or not they deserve to advance against Colorado can be debated given the call. But no one can question San Jose’s resolve.

It was a hell of a series, one that will be memorable for numerous reasons.

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It’s Not Over – Yet

**Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Famer, Steve Carp’s twice-weekly column publishes every Wednesday and Sunday during the Golden Knights season.** 

The stunned silence inside T-Mobile Arena Sunday evening was deafening.

Tomas Hertl’s shot from the high slot had managed to elude Marc-Andre Fleury and the San Jose Sharks remain very much alive in this opening round Stanley Cup Playoff series with the Golden Knights following their 2-1 double-overtime win.

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Watching from the press box as the Sharks celebrated, I couldn’t help to think what was going through the minds of virtually all of the 18,458 who had come to watch their team advance to the next round, were expecting handshakes but instead left wondering if this was their last visit to their beloved Fortress.

After all, it had been a strong effort by the home team. They had unleashed 59 shots on the other team’s goaltender. They had dominated play for good portions of the contest. They had spotted the visitors a 1-0 lead with 6.5 seconds left in the first period only to come back to pull even.

So why aren’t we talking about the Knights playing the Colorado Avalanche this morning? Why is there still unfinished business with San Jose?

The Sharks deserve the lion’s share of credit for extending this series to a deciding Game 7 Tuesday. They are a tenacious, opportunistic bunch. Their goaltender, Martin Jones, has rediscovered his game and his coach, Peter DeBoer, stuck with him when everyone was demanding he start Aaron Dell in net for Game 5.

Jones has played great in his last two games and it starts with him when looking for any explanations as to why this series is still ongoing.

I think our group has never lost faith in him. I think we knew he was capable of this and we needed him tonight and he was our best player. -DeBoer

Jones said he’s just trying to play the right way and not overthink things. It’s working out pretty well of late.

I’m sticking with it and just trying to read the game and play loose for the last few games. Trust my game and trust our team. -Jones

The Knights tipped their cap to the San Jose goalie. What else could they do?

Yeah, we were all over them. We had great pressure and forced a lot of turnovers. Martin Jones was pretty good tonight; you have to give him credit. -Jonathan Marchessault

But it’s not just San Jose’s goalie that has the Knights in this position. Hertl and Logan Couture, two players I had said before the series that the Knights had to contain, have dominated. Couture got the first goal and he has four in the series. Hertl has five goals. As a team, the Sharks have 18 goals, so that’s two guys generating 50 percent of the offense.

Yes, both are tough to play against. But if the Sharks advance beyond Tuesday, they’ll be the reason why.

(Hertl’s) confidence is as high as he wants it. You can see that, and you feed off him. He’s been a huge piece for us -Joe Pavelski

How has this series flipped in the last 72 hours? In the first four games, the Knights’ top line was Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone. Combined, they had 12 goals and 28 points. The last two games? Zilch. Stone had a gift 1:25 into Game 6 as he had an empty net to shoot at. His backhand was wide. If he scores, it changes the entire complexion of the game.

Pacioretty also had an open net and it took a great play by Pavelski to deny him as he managed to get his stick on Pacioretty’s at the right post before he could score.

Tomas Nosek and Reilly Smith also had Grade A chances in the opening 20 minutes and both failed to convert. If any of those go in, we’re probably talking about Colorado.

But hockey is as much mental as it is physical. And as we head to Game 7, the onus is on the Golden Knights to reboot mentally and emotionally.

You could see those seeds being planted immediately after the game from Gerard Gallant and his players.

You get ready to play, you forget about tonight, it’s over with now and you move on and get ready for the next one. We played a heck of a game tonight. I’m proud of our guys. The way that they competed; 59 shots on net. It wasn’t our night, but there is still another day for us, fortunately. We will get ready for Game 7 and be ready to go. -Gallant

And this from Marchessault:

We’re confident in the group we have here. We’re a confident group and a great hockey team. Just have to keep going and stick with it. I think if we keep playing the right way, like we did tonight, I think we’ll get rewarded. -Marchessault

What it boils down to is the Knights’ best players have to show up and outplay San Jose’s best. That has not happened in the last two games. Fleury has to play better. The Stastny line has to play better. The Knights’ entire defensive corps has to play better.

And while it is encouraging to see Marchessault and his line starting to generate some offense, it may not be enough. The bottom six need to help with the heavy lifting. Cody Eakin and Alex Tuch have only a goal apiece. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Will Carrier and Ryan Reaves have been kept off the scoresheet the entire series.

There’s nothing you can do when flukey things happen. Shea Theodore tried to prevent Hertl from scoring in the second OT and he got his stick on Hertl’s stick a split-second too late. And yes, maybe Fleury should have stopped that one, but that play all started by the Knights’ failure to maintain possession while on a rare OT power play. So if you’re looking to assign blame, you can point to all six players on the ice for Vegas.

But what’s done is done. As the players said afterward, you turn the page and you move on. But the stakes are obviously raised at this point. There’s no more cushion to fall back on. No more house money to play with. It’s one game, winner take all.

So why will the Knights win?

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