Karlsson’s short-handed goal lifts Vegas to division title
LAS VEGAS (AP) — William Karlsson put a spectacular bow on a surprising Pacific Division championship for expansion Vegas.
Karlsson scored a short-handed goal in the third period, and the Golden Knights clinched the title with a 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.
“It’s a great feeling to win our division. Obviously, nobody had those expectations the first of the season,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “A lot of things went right for us, a lot of guys played real well, a lot of guys had career years, so that’s why we’re here today.”
Vegas (50-22-7) reached 50 wins in its inaugural season with its third victory in four games. San Jose (44-25-10) is second in the Pacific, four points ahead of Los Angeles.
“It’s a great accomplishment, but we all know what the real accomplishment is gonna be,” Gallant said. “A great regular season means a lot, but a great playoffs can mean a lot more.”
For the second straight night, Karlsson scored a short-handed goal on a breakaway, this time with what might have been his sweetest of 42 goals this season — between his legs to beat Martin Jones top shelf for the game-winner.
“I kind of had a great spot there to pull that move ... it’s instinct, when you black out, that’s usually when you do good — don’t overthink it,” Karlsson said. “It was a great game, a lot of fun to play. It’s good to clinch not only the division, but the home advantage over the Pacific teams.”
Shea Theodore and Oscar Lindberg also scored for the Golden Knights, and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots. Fleury improved to 29-12-4 this season and moved into sole possession of 11th place on the career wins list with 404 victories.
“This is obviously a nice feeling, to do this at home, in front of our fans, you know they’ve been so great to us all season long,” Fleury said. “I’m very proud of these guys, the way they’ve played all season long. To have an expansion team win the division in our first year, I think it’s pretty cool.”
Jones made 35 saves. The Sharks had allowed fewer than 30 shots in eight of their previous 15 games.
Joe Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored for San Jose, which has dropped three in a row.
The Sharks, who went 10-4-1 in March, will have to wait until Tuesday to try to clinch a playoff berth for the 13th time in 14 years.
“You’re going to come in here and win in this rink in this time of year, you’re going to have to bring your A-plus game, and I thought we were B tonight,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “Just not good enough at certain moments and we probably got what we deserved.”
Vegas struck early in the first period. Theodore took a pass from Karlsson at the point and sent a wrist shot past Jones at 2:21.
Pavelski tied it when he fired a rebound into an open net at 7:14 while Fleury was still recovering from making a save at the other side of the goal.
Lindberg got the lead back for Vegas when he redirected Theodore’s shot from the point past Jones 3:03 into the second. But Vlasic tied it midway through the period when he backhanded home a rebound that came off Vegas defender Brayden McNabb’s knee.
NOTES: In a pregame ceremony, the Golden Knights retired No. 58, raising a banner with 58 stars and the names of the lives lost in the Oct. 1 concert shooting. ... The 18,458 in attendance was the largest crowd of Vegas’ inaugural season. ... Vegas’ James Neal played in his 700th career game, while teammate Jonathan Marchessault played in his 200th game. ... San Jose’s Joonas Donskoi played in his 200th career game. ... San Jose, which has the league’s second-best penalty kill, denied Vegas’ four power-play opportunities, and hasn’t allowed a power-play goal in 16 of its last 18 contests. ... The Golden Knights improved to 33-5-2 record when scoring the first goal of the game.
Sharks: Host Dallas on Tuesday.
Golden Knights: Visit Vancouver on Tuesday.