The magic continues.
The Knights rode a two-goal second period and yet another brilliant shutout performance by Marc-Andre Fleury to a Game 6 victory and a 4-2 series win.
It was Fleury’s fourth shutout of the postseason, and he was nothing short of sensational.
He did just about everything but score a goal in this one; fortunately, his teammates took care of that.
Jonathan Marchessault got the Knights on the board first with a strike 6:33 into the middle frame. It was a chaotic shift that featured multiple turnovers, including a fatal one to the forechecking duo of William Karlsson and Reilly Smith. Smith sent the puck down low to Marchessault, who beat Martin Jones five-hole to give Vegas the first lead of the night, one that Vegas would not surrender.
GOAL!!! Jonathan Marchessault gives Vegas the 1-0 lead! pic.twitter.com/BDNcgN89t4— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 7, 2018
Fantastic aggressive play from Reilly Smith and William Karlsson to force the turnover. pic.twitter.com/UiTodKU4bh— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 7, 2018
Nate Schmidt came close to doubling Vegas’ lead when his point shot struck iron late in the second.
Or so it seemed.
After the horn sounded to stop play, the review showed that the puck did, in fact, cross the goal line at 15:38 of the frame. His shot hit the post and then the camera inside the goal before bouncing out of the net.
Schmidt’s second of the postseason gave Vegas a 2-0 lead through two periods.
With their backs against the wall, the Sharks would have to give it everything they had in the third. After all, it was truly do-or-die for a San Jose team that got plenty of outstanding scoring opportunities throughout the contest but just couldn’t find the back of the net.
However, Vegas was the hungrier team in the third.
The Knights’ defense was stifling, and Jones was forced to make several point-blank saves thanks to strong forechecking and puck pursuit by the Knights.
However, the Sharks came close a few times.
Brent Burns hit the post with a little over six minutes left in the game.
The distinct “ding” of the post was an all-too-familiar sound throughout the game, as the puck became quite friendly with the posts and crossbars at both ends of the rink. The Sharks heard that sound many times, and Fleury was grateful for the assistance.
Fleury thanks his best friend, Mr. Post. pic.twitter.com/wLQecwF8i1— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 7, 2018
But he made countless saves at crucial moments in the game, and the Knights needed all 28 of his stops to win.
Hugs for Fleury, who has posted four shutouts in 10 playoff games this postseason. pic.twitter.com/StRgicgJ12— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 7, 2018
Cody Eakin capped off Vegas’ dominant third period with an empty-net goal at 18:09 of the frame to seal the game and series for the Knights.
THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS ARE GONNA DO THE THING, BOYS AND GIRLS. pic.twitter.com/eUw803NuQF— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 7, 2018
Ryan Carpenter, who was waived by the Sharks earlier this season, got the primary assist on the goal after making an unselfish play and throwing it over to Eakin.
It was a poetic representation of what this season has been like for the “Golden Misfits,” who are now four wins away from the first Stanley Cup appearance in franchise history.
The Knights’ overall performance in Game 6 was impressive, and it was a perfect microcosm of Vegas’ season as a whole.
Of course, Fleury was out-of-this-world spectacular, but everyone in the lineup worked hard and contributed to a hard-fought team win. Gerard Gallant came through with another intelligent lineup adjustment, as Ryan Reaves had a great night in his Golden Knights postseason debut in place of the injured William Carrier.
In fact, the fourth line, which consisted of Reaves, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Carpenter, was particularly effective and arguably Vegas’ most consistent line despite not finding the scoresheet.
Fittingly, as has been the case all year, Gallant was able to and continued to roll four lines all night, including in the most critical period of the season.
All four lines exhibited tremendous effort throughout the third, beating San Jose to loose pucks and sustaining pressure in the offensive zone. It was clear that the Knights had learned their lesson after taking their foot off the gas and giving up three goals in the third period of Game 5. Vegas showed zero hesitation as soon as the puck was dropped to start the third, ultimately outshooting San Jose 16-10 in the final frame. It was also key that Vegas stayed out of the penalty box after taking two minors early in the game, as discipline had plagued them throughout the series.
But in the end, Fleury was the difference. His confidence, his poise and his acrobatic and timely saves led the Knights to victory.
It's a miracle Vegas isn't down a pair of goals. Brent Burns hits iron after a pair of redirections. pic.twitter.com/aNnMWFAAWP— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 7, 2018
Another fantastic chance for San Jose. Fleury makes a great initial stop and the follow-up goes wide. pic.twitter.com/8tO8c2GAC5— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) May 7, 2018
Not many goalies can pull off a 28-save shutout in a series-clinching game on the road against a desperate team facing elimination. But Fleury did it with a smile on his face.
While Fleury was truly phenomenal, this was still a team win, and just like that, this team is headed to the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The best story in sports will live on for at least four more games as the Knights advance to the Western Conference Finals.