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Western Conference Final | Jets vs. Golden Knights

Stanley Cup Final

Defense gets Golden Knights to Stanley Cup Final

Fleury, contributions from fourth line leads Vegas past Jets in Western series

by Danny Webster / NHL.com Correspondent

LAS VEGAS -- The Vegas Golden Knights are going to the Stanley Cup Final.

The Golden Knights won 2-1 against the Winnipeg Jets in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final at Bell MTS Place on Sunday and will face the winner of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals. The Lightning lead that best-of-7 series 3-2.

 

[RELATED: Golden Knights fans celebrate in Las Vegas | Trip to Cup Final helps healing process]

 

Vegas became the third team in NHL history to reach the Cup Final in its inaugural season, joining the Toronto Arenas (1918) and St. Louis Blues (1968), and the sixth team in its first postseason appearance, joining the Montreal Maroons (1926), Boston Bruins (1927) and Florida Panthers (1996).

Here are five reasons why the Golden Knights advanced:

 

1. Marchessault's magic

Jonathan Marchessault had five points (four goals, one assist) against the Jets, including scoring twice in Games 2 and 3 (both wins). With his assist in Game 4, he has 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, tying him for most by a player in his team's first playoff appearance (Jude Drouin, 1975, New York Islanders; Igor Larionov, 1994, San Jose Sharks).

"All the work that we've done, and if we came up short, it wouldn't mean nothing," Marchessault said. "Obviously, all the records and everything mean nothing if you're not the last team standing. I think we have a lot of gas left."

Video: WPG@VGK, Gm3: Marchessault pots second on empty net

 

2. Fleury does it again

For the third straight series, Marc-Andre Fleury had a strong performance to help the Golden Knights advance.

Fleury, who made 31 saves in Game 5, has only allowed one goal (90 saves) and has two shutouts in three series-clinching games (all on road).

After Game 1 (a 4-2 loss), he allowed six goals and had a 1.50 goals-against average and .956 save percentage in the next four games. Fleury's win Sunday was his 74th in the playoffs, tying him with Chris Osgood for eighth on the NHL's all-time list among goaltenders.

Video: VGK@WPG, Gm5: Fleury denies Wheeler with his pad

 

3. Response after Game 1

The Jets scored three goals in the opening 7:35 of Game 1, but did not score three goals in a game the rest of the series (seven total).

Game 1 was also the last time Winnipeg held a lead against Vegas.

"I'm just proud of our team," Golden Knights forward James Neal said. "Such a battle all year. We came together very quickly and we all had the same mindset. We believed in each other, we believed in ourselves. Every single guy up and down the lineup chipped in. This is a true team. I'm so excited."

 

4. Fourth line wins it

The Golden Knights acquired forward Ryan Reaves in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 23. He played 21 games for Vegas in the regular season and was a healthy scratch for the first nine games of the playoffs before playing in Game 6 of the second round against the San Jose Sharks.

On Sunday, Reaves scored the tiebreaking goal, his first with the Golden Knights, at 13:21 of the second period.

Reaves, who replacedWilliam Carrier (undisclosed) and played in all five games against the Jets, and forward Tomas Nosek, who scored in Game 4, had arguably two of the most important goals in the series for Vegas.

Video: VGK@WPG, Gm5: Reaves tips in point shot for lead

 

5. Taking care of home ice

Despite not having home-ice advantage for the first time in the postseason, the Golden Knights made the most of their opportunities at T-Mobile Arena.

After winning Game 2 in Winnipeg, the Golden Knights, who are 6-1 at home in the playoffs, were able to take control of the series by winning Games 3 and 4 in Vegas.

The Golden Knights only home loss in the postseason was in overtime in Game 2 of the second round against the Sharks. Vegas will have home-ice advantage in the Cup Final if it faces the Capitals. The Lightning will have home ice if they advance.

***

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