Welcome back to Last Word on Hockey’s summer series where we look at the biggest game in team history. Each day we will be back with a new team to review. Looking at things like the lead-up, what happened, followed, and why makes it the biggest game. The biggest game does not automatically mean a win, either. Sometimes, it can be a loss that set the franchise back massively. Sit back and enjoy as we break down all 31 team’s most important game. This is the Vegas Golden Knights biggest game in franchise history. The full series is found here.
Vegas Golden Knights Biggest Game
Prior to the start of the 2017-18 season, the Vegas Golden Knights had never played a single game in the NHL. When they finally hit the ice in October of 2017, they really made an impact. They shocked the league by finishing first in their division and making the playoffs in their first NHL season after being, to some, the favourites to finish in last place. Instantly proving the doubters wrong, Vegas came out of the gate with some extremely surprising wins.
By the time the season was wrapping up, the Golden Knights had firmly placed themselves at the top of the standings, along with many already well established Stanley Cup contenders.
The Lead-Up To The Western Conference Final
Despite finishing the regular season with 109 points and topping the Pacific Division standings, everyone thought the brand new Vegas team would come crashing back down to Earth and lose in the first round. It was quite the opposite, however. The Vegas Golden Knights went on to sweep their first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings. Clinching it out with a 1-0 game, Brayden McNabb scored the lone goal in Game 4 to win the first-ever playoff series for the new Vegas franchise.
In the second round, the Golden Knights met another California team when they played the San Jose Sharks. After winning Game 1, the Sharks defeated Vegas to hand them their first-ever playoff defeat. After trading Games 3 and 4, former Minnesota Wild players Alex Tuch and Erik Haula, who combined for three goals, led the team to victory in Game 5. In Game 6, when Vegas was able to win the series, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves to shut out the Sharks in order to advance to the Conference Final.
When the Western Conference Final came around, the Golden Knights were put up against the Winnipeg Jets who just came off a long series with the Nashville Predators. The Jets had been one of the best teams all season and were the favourites to win. With the Jets taking the first game, it was the first time the Golden Knights lost the opening game. The Golden Knights struck right back winning the next three straight games, led by Jon Marchessault who scored four goals through the three wins.
Vegas Golden Knights Biggest Game: Western Conference Final Game Five
The Vegas Golden Knights came into Game 5 on May 20th, 2018, with a chance to eliminate the Jets and head to the Final. Tuch opened the scoring early in the first to give Vegas the lead. Defenceman Josh Morrissey tied the game before the end of the first to go into the second period with a tie game.
In the second period, the most unlikely player would put the Golden Knights ahead. Ryan Reaves got the go-ahead goal for Vegas to put them ahead for the rest of the game. It was a goaltender duel between Fleury and Connor Hellebuyck. Both goaltenders faced 32 shots apiece, but Fleury came out on top.
After winning this game, the Golden Knights would go to the Stanley Cup Final in just their first season of play. That made them, undeniably, the best expansion team in North American professional sports.
The Golden Knights went on to face the Washington Capitals and took the first game. After Game 1, however, the Golden Knights lost four games straight to lose in the Final. While Vegas lost the Final, they established themselves as one of the top teams in the NHL during their Cinderella run.
The only debate between the game that sent the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in their first season was their win on March 31st, 2018 over the San Jose Sharks that clinched the Pacific Division title in their inaugural season.
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