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Golden Knights' historic season continues with sweep of Kings

Players not satisfied after unprecedented series win, aiming for Stanley Cup

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

LOS ANGELES -- The Vegas Golden Knights celebrated around goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. They shook hands with the Los Angeles Kings. They high-fived in the locker room and laughed at a couple of dance moves by forward Jonathan Marchessault.

And then?

After a 1-0 win at Staples Center on Tuesday? After a sweep in the Western Conference First Round? After becoming the first team to advance in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs? After becoming the first team to sweep a series in its inaugural season?

 

[RELATED: Golden Knights sweep Kings | Complete Golden Knights vs. Sharks series coverage]

 

Fleury, who allowed three goals in four games plus two overtimes, said it was "another win" and "another series." Forward James Neal said it was a "great start." Forward Erik Haula said they had to "forget about this." Marchessault said they had to look ahead to Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Anaheim Ducks or San Jose Sharks.

"Why would we be satisfied? I mean, we don't have the Stanley Cup," forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. "We didn't start the playoffs thinking, 'All right, if we reach the second round, we're happy about it.' Guys are really excited because we just won a series. We're excited because we're probably going to get one more day to relax the bodies. But I mean, two days from now, it's back to business."

Video: VGK@LAK, Gm4: Fleury stymies Kings to sweep series

In the big picture, winning this series was a huge accomplishment, and sweeping it was unprecedented.

Three other NHL teams have won a playoff series in their inaugural season, but each did it against another team in its first season in the League. In 1917-18, the NHL's first season, the Toronto Arenas defeated the Montreal Canadiens in the Final. In 1967-68, the first season of the expansion era, the St. Louis Blues and the Minnesota North Stars won seven-game series against the Philadelphia Flyers and the Kings, respectively.

The Golden Knights became the first team with a four-game sweep in its first playoff series in its inaugural season, not just in the NHL, but also the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.

You have to go back 48 and 104 years to find other NHL, NBA or MLB teams with four-game sweeps in their first playoff series, period. The Pittsburgh Penguins swept the Oakland Seals in 1969-70, their third season in the NHL, and the Boston Braves swept the Philadelphia Athletics in 1914, the 11th season MLB crowned a World Series champion.

One other team has swept a best-of-7 series at any point in its first postseason: the Portland Trail Blazers, who did it against the Los Angeles Lakers in 1976-77, their seventh NBA season.

But the Golden Knights are used to this kind of thing.

"I've heard it a few times over the season," Fleury said with a laugh. "We're not shooting for new records, right? We're just trying to focus on the next game, and that's it."

They went 51-24-7, winning the Pacific Division and finishing fifth in the NHL with 109 points. They had 26 more points, 18 more wins, seven more home wins and two more road wins than any other team ever had in its inaugural season.

"I think we should be confident with the way we played all year to come into this series and know that we can win hockey games and we can beat teams," Neal said. "We should have a lot of confidence going into the next series."

Say what you want about the Golden Knights having more favorable rules in the NHL Expansion Draft. The thought was that they would be competitive, not that they would be Cup contenders. No one thought they would make the playoffs, let alone excel in them.

Each player on the ice for Vegas on Tuesday was selected or acquired at the expansion draft, meaning each player on the ice for Vegas was considered expendable by his former team. The two players general manager George McPhee acquired before the Feb. 26 trade deadline -- forwards Ryan Reaves and Tomas Tatar -- were healthy scratches. Fitting that a former Kings defenseman, Brayden McNabb, scored the lone goal.

Video: VGK@LAK, Gm4: McNabb pots slick dish from Smith

This happened because McPhee and his staff did an incredible job building a roster, because they hired an excellent coach in Gerard Gallant, because the Golden Knights clicked, started strong and snowballed.

"I wouldn't change any of them," Haula said. "I love every single guy in here. They're great guys to be around. Everybody plays hard, plays for the team. There's no selfishness. I'm fortunate to be a part of this group. We're a tight group, and we have fun for each other, play hard for each other. It's playoffs. We're here to win."

Cinderella is having too much fun at the ball to worry about midnight. She doesn't even see herself as Cinderella.

"I think a lot of people back home right now are just excited that the fairy tale is still living," Bellemare said. "I don't think we are having the pressure, like, 'Oh, this might stop.' I think we're like, 'Let's keep it up.'"

***

 

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