LAS VEGAS — In a town famous for hookups and quickie marriages, this romance seems like true love.
At least the dozens of Golden Knights fans standing in line before Game 1, waiting for tattoos — real tattoos, not temporary — had better hope it is. The expansion hockey team’s shield is being permanently inked on calves and shoulders of the newly minted fans at a rapid clip.
The tattoo line will be even longer before Game 2, after the 7-0 dismantling of the Sharks on Thursday night.
“I would hope it’s an anomaly and that we’re not going to lose every game 7-0 in the second round of the playoffs,” Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said. “I don’t think this gap is what the scoreboard said it was tonight.”
Though the thrashing matched the worst loss in franchise’s playoff history (the Sharks lost to Calgary 9-2 in 1995), it only cemented Knights fans’ belief that their team is the greatest story in the history of North American sports.
In their first playoff experience, the Knights are undefeated through five games.
Going into Thursday’s game, both teams were coming off sweeps. Both had proven themselves faster and more aggressive than their overmatched first-round opponents. Both had received dazzling performances from their goaltenders. Both had essentially the same amount of time waiting around for the second round to start.
But when they took the ice, the Sharks looked like they had a case of the Vegas flu. Or were covered in rust. The Knights made San Jose look slow and disorganized, and they solved goalie Martin Jones immediately.
“It feels like we haven’t played in forever,” Logan Couture said at the morning skate.
When the Sharks got on the ice, it looked like it.
Photo: John Locher / Associated Press
Before the game, the Sharks talked about the importance of the first 10 minutes. But the game was over by the end of those first 10 minutes.
“It’s the first adversity we’ve faced in the playoffs,” DeBoer said.
Jones, who had given up just four total goals in the series against Anaheim, had relinquished five goals by early in the second period, when he was replaced by backup Aaron Dell.
“He couldn’t do much on those goals,” DeBoer said of Jones. “That was on us as a group. It wasn’t on him.”
In the third period, Evander Kane was sent off the ice with a major penalty and game misconduct for crosschecking Pierre-Edouard Bellemare in the face. Not only did the resulting lengthy power play for the Knights result in two goals, but Kane could face a suspension.
“I’m not a dirty player,” Kane said. “I’m glad he wasn’t hurt on the play. Obviously, I don’t want to put my team in this situation.”
Overall, a thoroughly disastrous night for the Sharks.
But one more impressive chapter in the story of the expansion Knights.
For a town that’s normal standard is around-the-clock hype and adrenaline, Thursday was special. The town was buzzing with anticipation all day. The faux Statue of Liberty outside the New York New York casino was draped in a gigantic Knights jersey. Thousands of fans crowding the casinos for pre-gaming were decked out just like Lady Liberty was.
That daylong buzz became a deafening roar as the Knights poured on the goals in the first period.
The Knights experience is pro sports meets Vegas kitsch. The inside of the arena looks a bit like nearby Excalibur Casino. Fans shout “Shame, Shame, Shame” — echoing the “Game of Thrones” humiliation scene — when an opposing player takes a penalty. There are phony knights dueling on the ice.
The hockey Knights are for real.
Some of those with new Knights tattoos might have been optimistic enough to put $100 down on their team to win the Stanley Cup back before the season began, when the odds were 150-to-1. Those odds are now even: The Knights and the Tampa Bay Lightning are currently co-favorites to win the whole thing. Anyone who laid that $100 bet in September could walk away with $15,000 (or not quite enough for a PSL at the Raiders’ fledgling Vegas stadium).
At this point, that’s the only gambling story that seems relevant to Las Vegas’ first professional sports team. The city has been pining for a professional sports team forever and some have used it for leverage (hello, Oakland A’s), but the fear of a gambling scandal inevitably was a deterrent. The NHL took the plunge first, awarding Las Vegas an expansion team in June 2016.
The town was excited. But no one expected this: the most successful expansion team ever. By Feb. 1, the Knights had recorded the most wins by an expansion team. Last week, they became the first sports team to sweep their first playoff series in an inaugural season.
Now they’re undefeated and winning by touchdowns.
In playoff hockey, there’s really no momentum from game to game. Vegas head coach Gerald Gallant pointed that out: “Saturday night, San Jose could come out and play their best game. It doesn’t mean a thing.”
Don’t tell the new fans that. They’ll likely remember this game forever. Some may even get the score tattooed over their hearts
Ann Killion is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @annkillion