LAS VEGAS -- The Vegas Golden Knights will finish as the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference following a 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at T-Mobile Arena on Thursday.

Vegas, which entered the day third in the Pacific Division, fell one point behind the Los Angeles Kings, who won 5-4 in overtime against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.

As a result, the Golden Knights will play the Dallas Stars, who finished first in the Central Division and Western Conference, in the first round of the playoffs. Vegas eliminated Dallas in six games in the Western Conference Final last season.

“Every team that's left standing is a good hockey team. There's no easy path to winning, so, you know, we understand that every game is going to be a battle. I think we should be pretty excited. It's a great opportunity for our team,” Vegas forward Jack Eichel said. “It was a tight-checking series last year. Obviously, the first two games in that series went to overtime and, you know, they're a great hockey team.”

Frank Vatrano got his third hat trick of the season, and Cutter Gauthier had an assist in his NHL debut for Anaheim (27-50-5). Lukas Dostal made 32 saves.

“It's a big win for us,” Vatrano said. “I think top to bottom we played great as a team and did what we needed to do to win the game, and now we'll take that going into next season.”

Eichel scored, and Adin Hill made 19 saves for Vegas (45-29-8), which had won three straight.

“We play every game to win,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “So, I’m always going to look at why we didn’t (win). Early on in the first period, we played the right way in terms of how we're going to generate offense. ... We did a really good job just didn't finish. Credit to their goaltender, he made some saves. Then in the second period, we were not quite as good. We got into a little more of a rush game. In the third, obviously, we didn't do what we needed to do to score.”

Vatrano gave the Ducks a 1-0 lead at 4:25 of the second period, scoring a power-play goal with a one-timer from the top of the right circle.

Eichel tied it 1-1 at 18:47 with his own power-play goal. His centering pass for Jonathan Marchessault deflected in off the stick of Ducks forward Isac Lundestrom.

Jackson LaCombe scored 51 seconds into the third period to put the Ducks back in front 2-1. Gauthier, who was selected with the No. 5 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and was acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 8, had the primary assist on the play.

“It feels incredible,” Gauthier said. “I heard ‘Comber' calling for it there, and I just passed it to him. I saw it trickling in there. Pure excitement. Pure joy. It’s something you dream of as a kid. So, it was a really cool moment.”

Vatrano scored 29 seconds later with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle on a rush to make it 3-1. He then completed the hat trick with a short-handed goal into an empty net to make it 4-1 at 19:45.

“We were opportunistic. You know, they missed a chance early in the period. They could have gone up 2-1,” Anaheim coach Greg Cronin said. “They had a flurry around our net. We were just fortunate the puck bounced for us. We got the second one and a third one shortly after and, you know, anytime you score goals like that, especially for us, as we had a hard time scoring this year, it just builds confidence across the bench.”

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