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The Sharks could ruin this Vegas party

San Jose has pushed back through the entire series, and now reinforcements are coming.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The Sharks kept themselves from the brink by trouncing the Golden Knights in Game 4 of their second-round series on Wednesday night, 4-0. A Vegas win would’ve sent the expansion Knights home with a 3-1 series edge and a beautiful closeout opportunity. But the Sharks delivered one of the playoffs’ best performances and finally solved Vegas’ goalie.

This best-of-seven is now a best-of-three. Doubting the Golden Knights has proven beyond all measure to be dumb. This team’s roster doesn’t even look like a playoff team’s, much less that of a division winner with a first-round sweep to its name. But as great as Vegas has been, the Sharks find themselves in a solid position.

Statistically, this has been the most even series of the second round. But it’s been slowly shifting in the Sharks’ direction since Game 2.

Nobody’s had an obvious edge. The goal differential through four games is 14-11 in Vegas’ favor, but that advantage is exclusively because of a 7-0 win in Game 1. We don’t just get to discount that, but in the last three, the Sharks have been the better team. They’re one flipped overtime result in Game 3 away from having a 3-1 series edge of their own.

The possession numbers behind the series paint an even picture. Each team has controlled almost exactly 50 percent of the shot attempts and almost exactly 50 percent of the scoring chances. Marc-Andre Fleury still has far better numbers for the series than Martin Jones, but again, that’s just because of that 7-0 romp in the first game.

Wednesday was the Sharks’ best effort yet. For the first time in these playoffs, someone made Fleury look like the guy who had a sub-.900 save percentage across six playoff runs from 2010 to 2015, not the guy who helped Stanley Cup runs in ‘09 or ‘17 (or who played the best goal in the world during the first round this April). This Marcus Sorensen goal has a decent case as the best one scored by anyone in these playoffs:

Fleury gave up a couple of goals on rough rebounds Wednesday. His counterpart Jones was brilliant, stopping all 34 shots he saw, including this beauty:

One puck might have beaten Jones, but Brent Burns happened to be standing in the crease behind him and managed to keep the puck out of the net anyway:

That’s just one game, and the Knights still have home-ice advantage. But it seems possible the Sharks are about to get a boost.

They’ve already gotten one. Joonas Donskoi rejoined the lineup after missing Game 3 and scored a goal Wednesday. He’s one of the Sharks’ most versatile forwards, and when he’s in the lineup, it makes line combinations a lot easier for coach Pete DeBoer. Donskoi provides the kind of marginal edge that could be key as the dust settles.

Another possible addition to the Sharks’ lineup is of the “Jumbo” variety. Joe Thornton hasn’t played yet in these playoffs. He hasn’t played at all since January because of a reported right knee injury. But Thornton skated with the Sharks’ top line at the team’s morning skate on Thursday and had a bunch of the team’s beat reporters thinking he’d play.

He didn’t, but it sure looks like Thornton’s getting closer. He’s not the guy he used to be, and he probably won’t tip a series all by himself. But he remains one of the better playmaking centers in hockey, even at 38. He’s also the first-line center on the NHL’s All-Old Guys Who Really Deserve a Stanley Cup Team, and he’ll play with fire if he ever returns.

Vegas is a great team that’s about to play again on home ice. But this series has been exceptionally even, and the Sharks’ reinforcements are trickling in. Even with Vegas’ home-ice edge, I’m not sure I wouldn’t rather be the Sharks after Game 4.