In the Western Conference final, the Vegas Golden Knights are back in familiar terrain.
The Golden Knights defeated the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 in Game 6 of their second-round series on Sunday night to advance to the semifinal round for the fourth time in the franchise’s six-year existence. Jonathan Marchessault scored three goals for his second career playoff hat trick.
“We’re only halfway there,” Marchessault said. “We’ll keep going until our organisation achieves its ultimate goal.” Tonight is only a first step in the right path.”
The Golden Knights also got goals from Reilly Smith and William Karlsson, while Ivan Barbashev earned two assists. Adin Hill ended with 39 saves in his third postseason appearance.
“I’ve worked very hard my whole life to get to the NHL and be here,” said Hill, 27. “It’s exciting to be on a team this good that has the opportunity to really do it all; I’m grateful and excited about it.”
The winner of the series between Dallas and Seattle, which goes to Game 7 on Monday night, will play Vegas next.
The Golden Knights still have a half-dozen players from their initial season in 2017-18, when they reached the Stanley Cup Final.
“We have a lot of older guys on the team that have been through a lot of situations,” Marchessault said. “We’re not scared. It’s one of our strengths, and it will undoubtedly assist us in the future.”
Edmonton took a 2-1 lead less than three minutes into the game thanks to goals from Connor McDavid and Warren Foegele early in the first period. Stuart Skinner allowed four goals on 17 shots in the first two periods, but Jack Campbell saved all four shots he faced in the third.
After falling to eventual Stanley Cup winner Colorado a year ago, the Oilers fell short of returning to the conference final for the second year in a row.
“It hurts,” Edmonton forward Leon Draisaitl said, his voice cracking. “I’m at a loss for words right now.” When you begin a season, you intend to win. We’ve arrived at that point. If you don’t finish it, it almost seems like a failure or a squandered year. It stings.” Edmonton’s defeat officially prolonged Canada’s Cup drought to 30 years, dating back to Montreal’s victory in 1993.
At 4:26 of the second period, Marchessault tied the game 2-2 when the ball bounced off a skate in front of the net and the right wing shot it into the opening as Skinner dove across the goalmouth to attempt to stop him.
“A little bit of a lack of execution defensively in the second period ended up really hurting us tonight,” said Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft.
At 7:44, Marchessault put Vegas ahead. Marchessault scored when Alec Martinez’s slap shot bounced into the air off Skinner’s shoulder and landed on the goal line.
Marchessault completed his hat trick with a 4-on-4 goal with 1:24 left, seconds after a Vegas power play ended late in the middle period. On a cross-ice pass from Alex Pietrangelo, his wrist shot from just above the hash marks beat Skinner far side.
In the third period, Leon Draisaitl, who had 13 goals in his first eight playoff games, and McDavid were reunited on the same line in a bid to generate more offence. The Oilers created many opportunities, and McDavid’s shot hit the post.
With more over three minutes remaining in the third period, Campbell was withdrawn for an additional attacker, but Hill and the Golden Knights held fast.
“What was the distinction?” “They did a lot of good things, and then they shut it down,” McDavid said. “The third period was clinical in nature.” We still had our glances and couldn’t get one past him.”
Karlsson clinched the victory in the last minute with an empty-netter.
In the second period, the Golden Knights limited Edmonton’s feared power play to one scoreless opportunity. The Oilers, the NHL’s highest-scoring club during the regular season, were restricted to 10 goals in the series’ last four games.
In addition, the Knights outscored Edmonton 17-10 at equal strength.
“Our 5-on-5 game, I think it’s been really good all year,” Marchessault said. “We were down 1-0 and 2-1 quite often in that series, but we battled back.”
Smith scored his second goal in two games following an Edmonton error in its own corner to put Vegas ahead. Skinner cleared the ball into a pair of Vegas jerseys near the boards, and the puck popped out to Smith in the slot for a score 24 seconds into the game.
McDavid tied the game 31 seconds later after receiving a feed from Brett Kulak and beating Hill with a low shot far side under the goalie’s blocker.
At 2:43, Foegele scored while driving to the net after receiving a backhanded pass from Derek Ryan beyond the goal line.