One line caused the Sharks most -- if not all -- of their headaches in Game 3 of their Stanley Cup playoff series against the Vegas Golden Knights.
In the Sharks' 6-3 loss to Vegas on Sunday night, Golden Knights linemates Mark Stone (three), Paul Stastny (two) and Max Pacioretty (one) scored every goal that ended up in the back of San Jose's net. Three goals came within the first minute of the first, second and third periods, respectively.
Beyond that, those tallies each shared a common denominator, according to NBC Sports California analyst Curtis Brown. On each goal, the Sharks ceded the inside of the ice, Brown observed in his "Brownie Points" segment on "Sharks Playoff Live" after Game 3.
"You've gotta be aware when these guys are on the ice," the former Sharks winger said. "By being aware, [I mean] you have to stay on the defensive side of them, on the inside of the rink. Making sure that if they're going to get chances, not only are they not gonna be Grade-A, but they're gonna have to really work hard to get them."
On Stone's game-opening goal 16 seconds in, the high-scoring forward was able to get behind the Sharks' defense after a cross-ice pass in the Golden Knights' own end spread San Jose blueliners Erik Karlsson and Brenden Dillon apart. In the second period, Vegas' forecheck, led by its formidable forward line, forced a Timo Meier turnover, and Stastny slipped his man in the ensuing chaos to grab the loose puck and score. That forecheck opened the third-period scoring, too, and Stone gained inside position to tap in a rebound after he passed off a 2-on-1.
Stone (eight points), Statsny (eight) and Pacioretty (six) are tied for first and third, respectively, in playoff scoring. If the Sharks are going to find an answer for the red-hot trio in Game 4 on Tuesday night, it starts with San Jose's defense keeping them away from dangerous areas.
"In some of these cases," Brown continued, "I think the Sharks can look and say, 'You know what? We can be a little bit more difficult to play against, and help hold that line off the scoresheet.' "