Golden Knights 4, Avalanche 3: First seed in hand

Chicago Blackhawks, here we come.

After two multi-goal comebacks, it's nice that the Vegas Golden Knights didn’t trail for one second in this game. They started the scoring, they took each lead, and they did what they needed to do.

Even if, y’know, this was their worst game in terms of possession. At 5-on-5, the Golden Knights had 45.59 percent Corsi and 46.15 percent shot share after shutting down both the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues in those two contests.

But what’s done is done, and the Golden Knights accomplished what they set out to do from the start; clinch the first seed in the Western Conference. Alex Tuch scored with 16 seconds remaining in overtime to give Vegas a 4-3 win and complete a perfect 3-0-0 stint in round robin play.

Jonathan Marchessault broke open the scoring 21:34 into the game on the power play, deflecting a Shea Theodore shot into the net:

Weirdly, that’s Theodore’s first assist in the round robin games, his third point overall.

The Golden Knights got that opportunity because Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado’s Hart Trophy finalist, took an unsportsmanlike penalty arguing against an icing call a little too aggressively, although arguing any icing call is a little aggressive.

MacKinnon would get redemption on the next power-play opportunity for the Avalanche, evening the tallies at one each. Ryan Reaves was in the box for roughing. The goal came a little over five minutes after Vegas scored.

The penalty kill got very hectic after a Cale Makar shot hit the crossbar, and both defensemen, Brayden McNabb and Zach Whitecloud, ended up out of position and on the ice. That probably didn’t help Robin Lehner, in net this game, any.

Vegas would keep up some amount of pressure, and that would lead to a fourth-line goal, as a scene perhaps even more hectic than the Avalanche’s power-play goal took place, and either Nic Roy or Ryan Reaves scored. I still can’t tell whether or not Reaves touched it last:

Either way, Roy got credit and the assists went to Reaves and Theodore, Reaves’ second of the round robin games and Theodore’s second of the game.

The Avalanche would answer back, this time less than two minutes later, as Joonas Donskoi put a puck held near the post past a downed Lehner and Nick Holden.

Marchessault earned a penalty shot for being taken down near the goal by Ryan Graves. He scored on it, making it a 3-2 game with less than 17 minutes left to play. He elevated the puck past Philipp Grubauer’s left shoulder, a move he took his time getting to:

The Avalanche wouldn’t be able to answer this one immediately, but eventually they did, as with Grubauer pulled, J.T. Compher got his second point of the game, getting through Nate Schmidt to score the 3-3 goal.

So the first seed in the West was decided by a five minute 3-on-3 contest, but Vegas won it, so who cares. Alex Tuch, after getting chip shots on net all game, got his third goal of the round robin to win the game 4-3 and seal home ice for the Golden Knights:

Vegas won this game behind a strong performance by Robin Lehner, who made 32 saves on 35 shots and facing a 3.68 expected goals mark. He’ll look to be the starter going into Game 1 against the Blackhawks.

While the penalty kill allowed a power-play goal to the Avalanche, the fourth Colorado has scored against Vegas this season, they were able to kill of most chances, including an 88-second 5-on-3. But no penalty killer was as impressive as Lehner, who entered the contest as one of the best penalty-killing goaltenders this season.

This save especially highlights how good Lehner was:

The penalty kill ended up having to play 10:01 in this game (the most of their three round robin games), including that minute and a half 5-on-3, and only allowed one goal. They allowed just six shots in 8:29 of 4-on-5 time. For a team that hadn’t been successful against Colorado in that aspect of the game, it’s about as impressive as can be expected.

Mark Stone was impressive throughout this game, making two moves at the blue line to keep the puck in the zone that could have potentially upset the balance of the game, including this one:

He just kept stripping the puck, making it look accidental at times, like it just comes naturally to him. To be fair, Stone was third in the league in takeaways after leading last season, so maybe it does.

Meanwhile, the power play went one for four with Marchessault’s goal being the lone tally and had just three shots in 5-on-4 situations. Those are marks that will need to improve going forward, especially if Vegas sees the Avalanche again deep in the playoffs.

But first, the Golden Knights must deal with the Chicago Blackhawks, coming off a series victory over the Edmonton Oilers.