Although the Vegas Golden Knights have yet to complete a third season as an NHL franchise, the team has already given its fans moments they will remember forever. Many of those moments came in the Knights’ inaugural season of 2017-18.
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On April 11 two years ago, the Knights played their first playoff game in franchise history against the Los Angeles Kings at T-Mobile Arena.
Not only was it an important game in the Knights’ quest for an improbable Stanley Cup, but it was an important game for the city of Las Vegas as well.
After the tragedy of the Las Vegas shooting, the city rallied behind the Golden Knights and consistently made T-Mobile Arena one of the loudest, and toughest places to play in the NHL. Game 1 in the first round of the 2017-18 playoffs was no different.
Shea Theodore Gives the Knights an Early Lead
Vegas came out hot at the start, fueled by the energy of their home crowd. Shea Theodore scored the first playoff goal in Golden Knights history just 3:23 into the first period.
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A strong forecheck from Knights forwards William Carrier and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare led to a Kings turnover. Tomas Nosek found the puck for Vegas, and made a great pass to Shea Theodore at the point. Theodore sent a wrist shot towards the net into traffic. The puck took a deflection and found its way into the back of the net, sending T-Mobile Arena into a frenzy.
“It’s exciting to score the first goal… Obviously, it gets our crowd and fans into it. It was an exciting moment.”Shea Theodore on his game one goal via NHL.com
Theodore’s goal turned out to be a valuable one, as both goalies were playing at the top of their game.
The Goaltending Battle: Fleury vs. Quick
After Theodore’s early goal, it seemed like we were in for a high scoring affair. However, Marc-Andre Fleury and Jonathan Quick made sure that was not the case.
Quick made 27 saves on 28 shots faced, and kept the Kings in contention. But it was Fleury who stole the show, making 30 saves to earn his 11th career postseason shutout and 63rd playoff win. Fleury’s 11th shutout in the postseason gave him the most among all active goaltenders (he currently sits T-4th on the all-time list with 15).
“They’re a big team, they like to shoot from the points with a lot of guys in front of the net and trying to screen and tip pucks; maybe I got a few more sticks in my legs than the [regular] season, and my face, but it’s all part of the playoffs,” Fleury said. “I felt good, but my teammates were great also. They helped me out a lot, blocking shots and grabbing guys in front of the net, so it makes my job a little easier.”Marc-Andre Fleury after his Game 1 shutout via CBC
It was an important beginning to an incredible playoff run for Fleury, who had often been criticized for his postseason performances while in Pittsburgh. The Canadian netminder went on to record four shutouts in his first 10 starts of the 2018 playoffs for the Golden Knights.
No Shortage of Physical Play in Game 1
As expected during any playoff matchup, especially in the first round, both sides ramped up the physicality for this game. After averaging 61 combined hits per game in four regular-season meetings between the two teams, LA and Vegas combined for 127 hits in their Game 1 bout.
The physical play culminated in a Drew Doughty hit on William Carrier that sent the Knights forward into the locker room for the remainder of the game. Carrier led Vegas with 10 hits on the night, including a few heavy knocks on Doughty, as well as a hard forecheck on Christian Folin that led to the only goal of the game.
Doughty showed his frustration with a high hit on Carrier in the third period.
LA’s star defenseman ended up with a one-game suspension for the hit after a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. Carrier would return for Game 2.
It was a hard-fought win for the Golden Knights in their first playoff game in franchise history. The Knights came away from this game with all of the momentum in the series, leading to a four-game sweep of the Kings in the opening round of the 2018 Playoffs.
Vegas became the first team in NHL history to sweep a playoff series in its inaugural season, one of many accolades the team earned during its incredible Stanley Cup run in 2018.