Joe Pavelski lost a couple of teeth, had stitches in his lip and his mouth was still bloody long after taking Brent Burns’ point shot right off his chin . Pavelski was also able to smile since his pain led to a goal and a playoff victory.
Pavelski’s first-period goal and then his return to the ice in the second period despite the injury inspired his teammates, who delivered their most complete game in weeks with a 5-2 victory Wednesday night over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of their first-round series.
“Tough as nails,” coach Peter DeBoer said of his captain. “To take a puck to the face like that, didn’t go down. Only missed maybe a shift at the end of the period and played the rest of the game. There’s no other word for it. He’s a warrior.”
Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Evander Kane added goals in a wild second period that featured heavy hitting, a parade to the penalty box and the high intensity expected in a series between two franchises that have become fierce rivals in just two seasons.
Tomas Hertl added an empty-net goal and Martin Jones made 24 saves to get San Jose started off right in this series heading into Game 2 on Friday night.
Mark Stone scored both goals for the Golden Knights, who struggled to generate much offense at all against a Sharks team that has appeared to shake off a late-season slide in time for the postseason. Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves.
“They outplayed us on every facet of the game tonight,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “They worked harder and competed harder. We weren’t good enough. They didn’t do anything different than what we expected but they played a lot harder. Our guys have to be ready to play more competitive hockey in the next game.”
Pavelski epitomized that with the Sharks on the power play in the first period. He went to the front of the net, where he is usually so adept at tipping pucks with his stick for goals. Burns’ point shot came in high and hit him in the chin instead before bouncing into the net. Pavelski was unable even to celebrate, heading straight to the dressing room for treatment while the crowd roared at the series-opening goal.
“It’s nice to hear the fans cheer,” Pavelski said. “Silver lining sort of thing, should I go to the pile or not? I knew everything was messed up there for a little bit, but I think somewhat fortunate it wasn’t worse.”
There was concern in the arena when Pavelski didn’t come out to start the second, but he re-emerged early in the period with a bloody mouth and a full shield to protect his injured face.
Things then got wild early in the period following a series of penalties. After coincidental minors to San Jose’s Brenden Dillon and Jonathan Marchessault left the teams playing 4-on-4, the Sharks went on a power play when Deryk Engelland was called for a trip.
That was quickly negated when Pavelski was called for tripping, creating the rare 3-on-3 in the playoffs. The Sharks capitalized when Erik Karlsson fed Burns, who beat Fleury from the top of the circle with a wrister to make it 2-0.
Then with the teams back at 4-on-4 less than a minute later, Joe Thornton set up Vlasic in the slot for the goal that made it 3-0.
The Golden Knights got on the board seconds after Pavelski’s penalty ended when Stone got inside of Burns at the side of the net to knock in a loose puck.
But the Sharks regained the three-goal lead with 17.1 seconds remaining in the period when Kane deftly deflected a perfect pass from Karlsson at the point past Fleury.
Stone scored late in the third on a power play to make it 4-2. But Jones stopped Reilly Smith on a breakaway with less than three minutes left and Hertl sealed it with his empty-netter.
“We were undisciplined tonight,” Marchessault said. “That’s how we lost the game. This whole series revolves around our discipline and our work ethic. Jones is already a great goalie, but tonight we made his night little easier than expected.”
NOTES: The Golden Knights had scored in the first five minutes in eight of 14 meetings between the teams, including all four this season. But Vegas didn’t even have a shot on goal for the first five minutes this game. … Karlsson had two assists in his second game back after missing 17 games with a groin injury.
Game 2 is Friday night in San Jose.