SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — After an up-and-down second season together, the top line for the Vegas Golden Knights is starting to click again when it really counts.
Jonathan Marchessault had two goals and two assists, Reilly Smith had a goal and three assists and the Golden Knights won for the ninth time in 10 games, beating the San Jose Sharks 7-3 on Monday night.
William Karlsson added a goal and an assist as the trio combined for 10 points, giving the line 33 points during this 10-game stretch that started with the arrival of Mark Stone in a deadline deal from Ottawa.
“It’s definitely been a little bit of a roller coaster year for us,” Marchessault said. “We’re not producing as much as last year. It’s fine. I think we’re playing well still defensively and shutting down big lines on the other teams. When we do that I think that’s when we’re the most successful.”
The way they have played the past three weeks showed why it’s so important for the Sharks to catch Calgary in the Pacific Division race and avoid a first-round playoff series against the surging Golden Knights. San Jose trails the Flames by one point, and Calgary has a game in hand. The Sharks have a seven-point edge over Vegas in the race for second place and home-ice advantage in the first round.
The Sharks dropped their third straight home game in regulation for the first time in three years as they failed once again with an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth.
“I’m concerned,” said Logan Couture, who scored twice. “We hadn’t played well, we’re giving up too many chances, too many easy goals. We’re giving up odd-man rushes. We have to get back to shooting the puck.”
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Perhaps more concerning for San Jose was the absence of captain Joe Pavelski, who missed his first game with an injury in more than eight years. Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said the team’s leading goal scorer has a lower-body injury and is out longer than day to day.
Joe Thornton had a goal for San Jose. Martin Jones allowed three goals on 11 shots before being replaced by Aaron Dell in the first period.
Stone, Paul Stastny and Cody Eakin also scored for Vegas. Malcolm Subban made 36 saves in place of injured Marc-Andre Fleury.
The game was a possible playoff preview, with the teams lined up to meet in the first round based on the current standings. A rivalry is already building between the clubs after Vegas knocked out San Jose in six games in the second round on the way to a Stanley Cup Final appearance during its expansion season a year ago.
The intensity was high from the start, with Couture’s goal on the opening shift setting the tone for a wild first period that featured five goals, 25 shots, five power plays and a goalie change.
The Sharks tried to take control early. Tomas Hertl hit the post on the second shift before Vegas responded with two goals from its top line and another from the No. 1 power-play unit to take a 3-2 lead after one.
Marchessault and Smith were involved in all three goals, capped by Marchessault’s bad-angle shot that ended Jones’ night.
“I think we were just getting rewarded tonight,” Smith said. “We had other games where I think we were probably making better plays, creating better opportunities. Tonight the pucks were just going in for us.”
The Golden Knights could have had even more when they got a power play late in the period after Micheal Haley took exception to Ryan Reaves’ hard hit on Melker Karlsson before a line change. Haley rushed over and tried to pull Reaves off the bench for a fight, getting a penalty on the play.
Vegas couldn’t capitalize despite getting 16 seconds of a two-man advantage for too many men on the ice.
But the Golden Knights did take advantage of a bad penalty in the second period when Thornton hit Shea Theodore late in the offensive zone for an interference call. That led to Stastny’s goal that put Vegas up 4-2 heading into the third and the Golden Knights poured it on from there.
NOTES: Only two Vegas players had previously recorded four points in a game: Karlsson and Theodore did it last season. … Couture’s first goal gave him 500 career points.
Vegas: Hosts the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.
San Jose: Visits the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.
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