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Stanley Cup Final

Golden Knights' magic runs out in Stanley Cup Final against Capitals

Fleury, first line, defense fall short to end storybook tale of first NHL season

by Danny Webster / Correspondent

LAS VEGAS -- The Vegas Golden Knights' inaugural NHL season came to an end Thursday with a loss to the Washington Capitals in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The Golden Knights defied all odds by winning the Pacific Division with 109 points before storming through the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They eliminated the Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks and Winnipeg Jets, losing three games in those three series, before falling to the Capitals, who won the Cup for the first time in their 43-season history.

Vegas won Game 1 of the Final 6-4 at T-Mobile Arena on May 28, but lost four straight for the first time this season. 


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


Here are 5 reasons the Golden Knights lost the Stanley Cup Final:


1. Fleury's fizzle

Going into the Cup Final, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was considered a front-runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP; through the first three rounds, he was 12-3 with a 1.68 goals-against average, a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. 

Against the Capitals, he gave up 20 goals in five games, 16 in the four consecutive losses.

"[Washington] is a good team," Fleury said. "They have a good power play too. They were able to create space."

Fleury reached the Cup Final for the third straight time; the first two were with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm5: Fleury kicks out Carlson's big blast


2. First-line struggles

The top line of Reilly Smith, William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault was held in check by the Capitals for most of the Final.

Smith, with six points (three goals, three assists); Karlsson, with two points (one goal, one assist); and Jonathan Marchessault, with three assists, could not create offense in Games 2-5. Fourth-line forward Tomas Nosek's three goals were tied with Smith for most on the Golden Knights in the series.


3. Defensive woes

With its offensive standouts struggling, Vegas needed its defense to stand tall in front of Fleury to give it a chance. But the Golden Knights could not solidify their own zone either.

The Capitals went 5-for-16 on the power play in the series. Two of forward Alex Ovechkin's three goals in the Final came with the man-advantage. Forward Evgeny Kuznetsov had eight points in the series (one goal, seven assists). Fourth-line forward Devante Smith-Pelly scored a goal in three straight games, including the tying goal at 9:52 of the third period in Game 5.

"They're a great team over there," defenseman Deryk Engelland said. "They've got a lot of dangerous guys. Always looking forward to next year, but I'm not thinking about that right now."

Video: Looking back on Vegas' historic season 

4. Costly mistakes

There were several noticeable, untimely turnovers that proved costly for Vegas.

In Game 3, defenseman Shea Theodore committed one that led to Smith-Pelly's goal at 13:53 of the third period. Defenseman Luca Sbisa's turnover behind his own net in Game 5 led to Washington center Lars Eller's Cup-winning goal at 12:23 of the third period.

No one can say what would have happened if those turnovers didn't occur, but they proved crucial to the series outcome.


5. Heartache at home

The Golden Knights were one of the best home teams in the NHL during the regular season, with a 29-10-2 record, and were 7-1 at T-Mobile Arena after winning Game 1 of the Cup Final.

But they lost 3-2 in Game 2, allowing the Capitals to return to Washington with the series tied 1-1. The Golden Knights lost by a combined 9-3 in Games 3 and 4 on the road, unable to regain home-ice advantage, before they and their fans watched the Capitals lift the Cup on their ice Thursday.


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