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Stanley Cup Final

How Golden Knights reached 2018 Stanley Cup Final in inaugural season

Closer look at Vegas' improbable run to championship round

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

The Vegas Golden Knights will try to make history once again.

The Golden Knights advanced to the Stanley Cup Final with a 2-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final on Sunday and can become the second team to win the Stanley Cup in its inaugural season.

They joined the Toronto Arenas (1918 champions) and St. Louis Blues (1968) as the teams to reach the final in their inaugural season. In addition to the Arenas and Blues, they are the sixth team to reach the Cup Final in their first postseason appearance, joining the Montreal Maroons (1926), Boston Bruins (1927) and Florida Panthers (1996).


[RELATED: Golden Knights advance to Stanley Cup Final]


Vegas has gone 12-3 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, defeating the Los Angeles Kings in four games in the first round and the San Jose Sharks in six games in the second round prior to defeating the Jets.

Here are some of the highlights along the Golden Knights' road to the Stanley Cup Final:

BEST MOMENT: Winning the Western Conference -- Winnipeg native Ryan Reaves, who was acquired by the Golden Knights in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 23, made sure his first goal with Vegas was a big one. He gave the Golden Knights a 2-1 lead when he scored at 13:21 of the second period in Game 5. Vegas improved to 10-0 in the playoffs when holding a lead after two periods and advanced to the Stanley Cup Final.

TURNING POINT: Dec. 3, overtime win against Coyotes to end losing streak -- Following a 7-4 loss at Winnipeg, the Golden Knights lost three straight for the second time and were heading in the wrong direction. But they followed that up with a 3-2 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 3 when Reilly Smith scored 1:19 into overtime, the first of four straight victories and 12 of 13, all but cementing their place atop the Pacific Division for the remainder of the season.

Video: Marchessault, Smith lead Golden Knights to 3-2 OT win

BEST MOVE MADE: Claiming Malcolm Subban off waivers -- Vegas selected Calvin Pickard from the Colorado Avalanche in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft to back up Marc-Andre Fleury but traded him to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 6, three days after acquiring Subban off waivers from the Boston Bruins. Subban, who was 0-2-0 with a 5.82 GAA and .727 save percentage in two starts with Boston over the previous three seasons, was forced into action when Fleury missed 25 games with a concussion from Oct. 15-Dec. 9. Subban went 13-4-2 with a 2.68 GAA and .910 save percentage in 22 games (19 starts). He won his first four starts and seven straight from Dec. 3-Jan 5.

BEST MOVE NOT MADE: Keeping roster intact at trade deadline -- Vegas had an 11-point lead over the San Jose Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division at the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 26, and made one move. The Golden Knights acquired forward Tomas Tatar from the Detroit Red Wings, without trading anyone from their roster, instead parting with three draft picks. The move showed Vegas was confident enough in its roster to make a deep run. Tatar had six points (four goals, two assists) in 20 regular-season games with Vegas.

Video: VGK@WPG, Gm2: Tatar tucks home opening goal

SIGNATURE WIN (REGULAR SEASON): Jan. 18 at Lightning -- One month after defeating the Lightning at home, 4-3 on Dec. 19 to end their eight-game losing streak, the Golden Knights got their second win against the NHL's top team to that point. Vegas got goals from James Neal, Nate Schmidt, David Perron and William Karlsson and 28 saves from Fleury in a statement win.

SIGNATURE WIN (PLAYOFFS): Game 6 against Sharks, second round -- With Vegas holding a 3-2 series lead and playing in a hostile environment at SAP Center, they managed to keep the Sharks off the scoreboard in a 3-0 win. San Jose had 68 shot attempts, including 28 on goal, each of which was stopped by Fleury, who got his fourth shutout of the playoffs. Jonathan Marchessault and Nate Schmidt scored in the second period and Cody Eakin in the third to propel Vegas to the conference final. 

MVP: Marc-Andre Fleury -- After being selected in the expansion draft to be the face of the Golden Knights, Fleury did not disappoint. He went 29-13-4 with an NHL career-low 2.24 GAA and career high .927 save percentage with four shutouts in 46 starts, including allowing two goals or fewer in 28 games. Fleury, who won the Stanley Cup in each of the past two seasons with Pittsburgh, has saved his best for the playoffs; he's 12-3 with a 1.61 GAA, .947 save percentage and four shutouts.

Video: VGK@WPG, Gm5: Fleury on series, going to Cup Final

ROOKIE OF YEAR: Alex Tuch -- Acquired from the Minnesota Wild in a trade at the expansion draft as part of a condition that Vegas would select Erik Haula, the 22-year-old rookie has had an impressive first NHL season. Tuch had 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists), including four game-winning goals in 78 regular-season games and has eight points (five goals, three assists) in 14 playoff games.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: William Karlsson -- Entering the season, Karlsson had 18 NHL goals in 183 games and never had more than nine in a season. He had 43 goals this season, finishing third in the NHL. Karlsson, 25, also has 78 points and led the League with a plus-49 rating in 82 games. He did it all for Vegas with eight power-play goals, four shorthanded goals and six game-winning goals. In the playoffs, Karlsson has 13 points (six goals, seven assists).


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