Golden Knights Eliminate Avalanche, Will Face Canadiens in Stanley Cup Semifinals

David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images

The Vegas Golden Knights have earned a second-round playoff series victory over the Colorado Avalanche after defeating the visitors 6-3 on Thursday at T-Mobile Arena.

Alex Pietrangelo scored the game-winning goal with 18 seconds left in the second period to give Vegas a 4-3 lead.

Pietrangelo also added an assist on a Keegan Kolesar goal to give Vegas a 3-2 lead earlier in the second. Andre Burakovsky got one back for the Avs before Pietrangelo’s game-winner.

William Carrier added an insurance tally in the third before Max Pacioretty sealed the win with an empty-netter.

Vegas, which led 2-1 after the first period, won despite taking just 22 shots on goal. In the other crease, Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury came through with 30 saves.

The Golden Knights, who lost their first two playoff games against the Avs, won four straight matchups in response to seal the 4-2 win in the best-of-seven matchup.

Notable Performances

Golden Knights LW Max Pacioretty: 1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG

Golden Knights D Alex Pietrangelo: 1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG

Golden Knights G Marc-Andre Fleury: 30 SV

Avalanche D Devon Toews: 1 G, 5 SOG

Avalanche RW Mikko Rantanen: 1 G, 2 SOG

Avalanche C Nathan MacKinnon: 2 A, 2 SOG

What’s Next?

Vegas will play the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Semifinals. The Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders will face off in the other semifinals series.

The Golden Knights will have home-ice advantage for the remainder of the playoffs by virtue of having the most regular-season points remaining among semifinals participants.

Complete Team Effort Guides Vegas to Semifinals

Vegas featured six different goalscorers on Thursday. Nine players had assists. On the back end, Fleury shut down the Avs completely in the third period, allowing Vegas to hold on for the win. 

Colorado scored a goal 23 seconds into the game, but undeterred, Vegas fired back less than one minute later thanks to Nick Holden:

NHL on NBC Sports @NHLonNBCSports

We’re in for a WILD one!#VegasBorn answer right back. #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/zceyhEoyIz

Vegas took advantage of a defensive breakdown later in the period, as an Alec Martinez cross-ice pass found its way to William Karlsson for a one-timer past Avs goalie Philipp Grubauer:

NHL on NBC Sports @NHLonNBCSports

Wild Bill! 🤠

The @GoldenKnights are buzzing.#VegasBorn | #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/lGL5Q1EWqG

The Avs tied the game in the second period, but Vegas responded once again when Keegan Kolesar deflected a Pietrangelo pass into the net:

NHL on NBC Sports @NHLonNBCSports

The Fortress is ROCKING! ⚔️#VegasBorn is back on top late in period 2. #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/7SJCCQhLDa

Once again, Colorado tied the game, but Vegas grabbed the lead for good with this Pietrangelo goal after an Avs turnover in their own end:

NHL on NBC Sports @NHLonNBCSports

Alex Pietrangelo! 🚨

The @GoldenKnights close out the period with a 4-3 lead. #VegasBorn | #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/VZd5tLgVM4

The Avalanche kept firing at the Vegas net, but Fleury became a brick wall in the third:

NHL on NBC Sports @NHLonNBCSports

FLOWER POWER. 🌸🌼#VegasBorn | #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/8kX0LHq9Og

Once again, the Colorado defense faltered, as a puck fired from the blue line into a mass of bodies somehow snuck through into the net after William Carrier took care of business:

NHL on NBC Sports @NHLonNBCSports

THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS HAVE A TWO-GOAL LEAD. #VegasBorn | #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/iCAKdN6QTQ

The Pacioretty empty-netter was icing on the cake, and Vegas moved on thanks to an incredible effort from the entire team.

Avalanche Collapse Complete

Mike Chambers of the Denver Post called the Avalanche’s series loss a “collapse” following the 6-3 defeat on Thursday, and it’s hard to argue otherwise.

Colorado looked destined for the next round after a dominant 7-1 win in Game 1 followed by a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 2, but the Golden Knights proceeded to outscore the Avalanche 17-8 over the next four games to advance.

There are plenty of reasons why the Avalanche are going home early.

The top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen didn’t come through, going cold for a long stretch in this series. Although the three combined for a power-play goal in the second period, their struggles in even-strength situations continued, with the trio combining for just one assist otherwise.

MacKinnon, an NHL MVP finalist who had a phenomenal season, was clearly disappointed afterward:

Emily Kaplan @emilymkaplan

The Avs have now lost in the second round of the playoffs for three-straight years.

Nathan MacKinnon: “I’m going into my ninth year next year and haven’t won shit. I’m definitely motivated. It just sucks.”

It was also a nightmarish game for the Avalanche defense, particularly, Sam Girard, who finished the night with a minus-four. That completed a four-game stretch where he went minus-nine.

This series was a clear anomaly for Girard, who had finished plus-15 and played a key role for one of the best defenses in the league. But for whatever reason, he had a bad series.

Luca Celebre @LucaCelebre21

Love Sam Girard but this has been a tough series for him among many Avs D. You expect more from him though and his passes haven’t been on target, breakouts have been sloppy.

Adrian Dater @adater

Sam Girard has been terrible this series. I have no explanation as to why

Ryan O’Halloran @ryanohalloran

Sam Girard’s nightmare continues.

Girard will certainly bounce back, and he has a very bright NHL future. Plus, the team’s struggles went far further than him, as the defense and goaltending as a whole did not fare well.

Colorado allowed the second-fewest goals per game in the league in the regular season. Granted, the Avs were playing a powerhouse Golden Knights team, but Colorado surprisingly struggled after an excellent start.

In the end, the Avs made a dent in the playoffs and got to the second round, but for the third straight year, that’s where their season will end. 

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