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Round 2

Golden Knights ride Fleury, lineup adjustments to advance

Stellar play of goalie, changes at right time get Vegas past Sharks, into Western Final

by Danny Webster / Correspondent

The magical season for the Vegas Golden Knights continues.

The first-year Golden Knights advanced the Western Conference Final with a 3-0 win against the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 on Sunday. They became the third team to win multiple NHL playoff series in their inaugural season, joining the Toronto Arenas (1918) and St. Louis Blues (1968).


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


The Golden Knights will play either the Winnipeg Jets or the Nashville Predators. The Jets hold a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 at Bell MTS Place on Monday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS).

Here are 5 reasons the Golden Knights advanced to the Western Conference Final:


1. Fleury finishes strong

Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was again a primary reason Vegas advanced.

After allowing four goals in Game 4, Fleury had a shutout for 51:35 of Game 5 and earned his fourth shutout of the postseason in Game 6. He made 28 saves in Game 6 for his second shutout in a close-out game this postseason and the fourth of his NHL career; putting him one behind Chris Osgood for the most in history.

"It's a good time," Fleury said. "We're beating good teams. It's been a tough battle, but it's rewarding when you win those games."

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm6: Fleury makes 28 saves in Game 6 shutout


2. Lineup adjustments

With the series tied 2-2 heading back to Vegas for Game 5, the Golden Knights made changes that proved crucial.

Forward Oscar Lindberg made his 2018 postseason debut in place of Tomas Tatar on the third line, and forwardRyan Carpenter returned after a two-game absence for Tomas Nosek. Forwards David Perron and Alex Tuch returned to their original places on the second and third line.

Lindberg (plus-1) and Carpenter (plus-3) had positive ratings in Games 5 and 6. Perron had three assists in the last two games with his usual linemates, and Tuch scored two goals in Game 5. 


3. Top line stellar

After a quiet first round from the top line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith, they paced the offense against San Jose.

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm3: Karlsson wins it in OT for Vegas

Marchessault led Vegas in scoring with nine points (four goals, five assists), including the first goal of Game 6 at 6:33 of the second period. Karlsson (three goals, five assists) scored twice in Game 2, and Smith (one goal, seven assists) was the facilitator.

"We just won in six against an awesome team," Marchessault said. "Definitely happy with our group. It doesn't get easier. We're just happy to be here. We don't want to look too much ahead."


4. Bottom six attacking

The decision to change the bottom six depended on the replacements having strong efforts. It proved to be the right call.

In Game 5, the third line created offensive chances. Tuch's two goals were important, and Lindberg had four shots on goal that were high-danger opportunities. Cody Eakin had an assist on Tuch's second goal and was plus-2.

In Game 6, the modified fourth line was the X-factor. Ryan Reaves made his 2018 playoff debut in place of injured William Carrier (undisclosed) and had a game-high eight hits. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare had a game-high six shots on goal, and Carpenter had an assist.

"It's not fun to lose guys, but it's cool to see guys that come up late like this can bring a new energy and don't even look like they've been missing any games," Bellemare said.


5. Responding under pressure

The Golden Knights haven't played under adversity for most of their inaugural season. The 4-0 loss in Game 4 was their worst performance of the playoffs, when coach Gerard Gallant said "10, 15 percent" of his players didn't show up.

Whether that prompted the lineup changes or not, Vegas responded. Fleury stopped 55 of 58 shots, six Golden Knights scored, and 12 players had a point.

Video: SJS@VGK, Gm5: Fleury makes superb back-to-back saves

"This is the most fun I've had playing hockey," said defenseman Nate Schmidt, who had four points (two goals, two assists) in the series. "This group has been incredible. That's why you see us having so much fun on the ice. Our guys trust each other. That's something you can't build over time."



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