Just like that, it was over.
All the drama, the intrigue, and surprises surrounding the Vegas Golden Knights faded as the seconds ticked away on their unbelievable season. The Knights never lost four games in a row throughout the regular season until the four losses in the Stanley Cup Final that brought their season to an end.
The loss shouldn’t take anything away from their historic trip to hockey’s largest stage. They accomplished the unthinkable by making the playoffs in the first place. Then they overwhelmed the Los Angeles Kings with their speed, out-worked the San Jose Sharks, and made a dangerous Winnipeg Jets team look mediocre.
This is the first time that Golden Knights fans have felt the pain of loss. Even if they haven’t suffered like other fanbases, it doesn’t make watching their team lose the Stanley Cup on home ice any easier. Instead of wallowing in defeat, it’s worth enjoying the awesome moments from Vegas’s incredible run. This band of misfits really captivated their fans, and hopefully left them with memories for a lifetime.
Shea Theodore Makes Golden Knights History
Remember this one for Trivia night at the pub. Just 3:23 into the first period, Shea Theodore ripped a slap shot past LA Kings goalie Jonathan Quick for the first ever playoff goal in franchise history.
That goal would stand to be the game-winner in a 1-0 victory for the Golden Knights. It was also the first of three playoff goals for Theodore, who flashed his offensive prowess in the postseason. Theodore contributed ten points in 20 contests and gained the trust of the coach more as the playoffs progressed. His average ice time in the playoffs was nearly a minute and a half more than in the regular season.
After Theodore’s tally, the goal scoring stopped for the next 71 minutes. It wasn’t until Alex Tuch’s power-play marker in Game 2 that someone found the scoresheet.
First Overtime Winner in Golden Knights History
With the lack of goal scoring through two contests, Game 2 reached double overtime. Both goalies put on a clinic in this game, but it was the Golden Knights who held the edge in shots, 56-30. Eventually, Quick’s heroic effort wasn’t enough. On the 56th shot of the game, Erik Haula took a sneaky-good feed from James Neal. In a skater versus goalie showdown, Haula came out on top with a nice move to bury the puck.
Four-Goal First Versus Sharks
The Sharks were assuredly going to provide a stiffer test for the Golden Knights. It just didn’t begin that way.
Vegas made San Jose look like a peewee hockey team in Game 1. The Sharks were caught flat-footed, and goaltender Martin Jones forgot about his excellence from the first round.
What ensued was mayhem in the Sharks’ defensive zone. They surrendered four first period goals, including three in a 91-second stretch. Vegas would go on to crush the Sharks 7-0. It was an entertaining start to the series, and the Golden Knights crowd was at their peak during that raucous first period.
“Wild Bill” Plays Overtime Hero
He was arguably the NHL’s most perplexing player during the regular season. It only made sense that William “Wild Bill” Karlsson would have his time to shine in the postseason, and he did it against the same goalie that he undressed earlier in the season.
With the series tied at one after Game 2, the first contest between the two teams at the Shark Tank proved to be just as tight. However, Wild Bill was the difference in the game, scoring on a beautiful shot off of the rush to give the Knights a 2-1 series lead.
Karlsson’s goal was his third in as many games against the Sharks, and the series was his most productive of the playoffs, finishing with eight points in six games. In 14 other playoff games, Karlsson posted seven points.
Fleury’s 4th Shutout Gets Vegas to Conference Finals
Heading into the Eastern Conference Final, Marc-Andre Fleury was far and away the front-runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy. With a save percentage just below.950, his brilliance was unprecedented. In the first round against the Kings, he only allowed three goals in four games, including almost two periods of overtime hockey. He finished the series with a ridiculous .977 save percentage, capped off by a shutout in the deciding Game 4.
He would post another two shutouts against the Sharks, including one in their series-clinching Game 6 win. In just ten playoff games through two rounds, Fleury had four shutouts. Martin Brodeur holds the playoff shutout record with seven in 2002-03, but only five goalies in NHL history have posted more than four shutouts in a postseason.
Reaves Sends Golden Knights to Stanley Cup Final
The Sharks series was easily their most surprising series win of the Stanley Cup playoffs and the series-clinching goal came from an unlikely source.
With Game 5 knotted up at 1-1 in the second period, the fourth line of Tomas Nosek, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Ryan Reaves began a shift in the offensive zone. Luca Sbisa got the puck at the point and floated a wrist shot on goal that was tipped in by Reaves to give the Knights a 2-1 lead. That goal would hold up as the game-winner, as the Golden Knights stifled the Jets the rest of the way.
First Ever Stanley Cup Final Win is a Wild Affair
For fans of hockey, you couldn’t really ask for more out of Game 1.
As the Washington Capitals and Golden Knights got to know each other, they put on a back-and-forth, wild affair that fans love and coaches loathe. They continued to swap the lead until the Golden Knights finally sealed the deal in the third period.
Again, it was the unlikely heroes who got it done for Vegas. After Tom Wilson tipped in an Alex Ovechkin shot to give the Caps a 4-3 lead, it was Reaves who stepped up again to tie the game at 4-4.
Another fourth-line hero emerged for the Golden Knights — this time, it was Nosek. The Czech winger took a cross-ice feed from Shea Theodore and buried the puck against a sprawling Braden Holtby. His marker stood as the game-winner, and he even capped off his evening with an empty-netter.
For a team of cast-offs that was assembled within mere hours, it’s only fitting that even the unheralded misfits were able to make an impact. While the end result for Vegas wasn’t desirable, they still went on a Stanley Cup run that will go down in history as one of the most unlikely stories in NHL lore.
KPU Journalism Graduate. Trevor has been writing for The Hockey Writers since October 2014. He has contributed articles related to the Ottawa Senators, Vancouver Canucks, and other issues/stories regarding the game of hockey. Trevor currently lives in White Rock, B.C.