Expansion Vegas Golden Knights advance to Stanley Cup Final

Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights celebrate defeating the host Winnipeg Jets 2-1 in Game 5 of the NHL Western Conference finals Sunday, May 20, 2018 to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
David Lipnowski | Getty Images

The Vegas Golden Knights are going to the Stanley Cup Final — with a chip on their shoulder.

"Everybody on this team has something to prove," Ryan Reaves said. "We call ourselves 'The Golden Misfits' for a reason. We're doing a good job of proving everybody wrong."

Reaves scored the winning goal, Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves and the Golden Knights beat the Winnipeg Jets 2-1 on Sunday to wrap up the Western Conference final in five games.

"It's insane," said defenseman Deryk Engelland, who grabbed the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl after the final buzzer to celebrate with his teammates. "Your goal is always to make the playoffs. But if I were to guess I would be sitting here doing this right now, you would be a little skeptical at the time."

Alex Tuch also scored for the Knights. They lost Game 1 in Winnipeg before winning four straight to become the first expansion team since the 1968 St. Louis Blues — when the six initial expansion teams were put alone in the West — to get to the final.

"It was their time," Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler said. "They're just playing really well."

Vegas will meet Tampa Bay or Washington in the final. Tampa Bay leads the Eastern final 3-2, with Game 6 set for Monday night in Washington.

The Knights, whose jaw-dropping inaugural 109-point campaign included a Pacific Division crown, swept Los Angeles in the first round, and knocked out San Jose in six games in the second.

"All those records and everything, it doesn't mean anything if you're not the last team standing," Vegas center Jonathan Marchessault said. "I think we have a lot of gas left."

Josh Morrissey scored for the Jets, and Connor Hellebuyck made 30 saves.

"It's very difficult to find that positive feeling at this moment," Jets coach Paul Maurice said.

Reaves, the bruising Winnipeg native acquired from Pittsburgh before to the trade deadline in February, snapped a 1-1 tie with 6:39 left in the second period when he tipped Luca Sbisa's point shot past Hellebuyck. Reaves' last goal before Sunday came 3 1/2 months ago while with Pittsburgh.

"The guys that weren't playing, myself included, we stayed ready," Reaves said. "We had fun while we were doing it, but we worked hard so when we were called upon we were ready to go."

Fleury stopped 151 of 161 shots in the series, and allowed just six goals the rest of the way after giving up four in the opener.

"Everybody's stepping up at different times," Fleury said.

Winnipeg got a power play early in the third, but couldn't muster much of anything. The Knights smothered much of the Jets' attack for the next 10 minutes, with Hellebuyck having to come up with big stops on William Karlsson and Eric Haula to keep his team within one.

The Jets pressed with under 4 minutes to go, with Fleury stopping captain Blake Wheeler on the doorstep, but it wasn't nearly enough as the Knights closed out their third straight series on the road.

The Jets had the NHL's second-best record with 114 points in the regular season. They advanced to the first conference final in city's history with a five-game victory over the Minnesota Wild in the opening round before topping the Presidents' Trophy-winning Nashville Predators in Game 7 on the road.

The usual raucous, white-clad crowd at Bell MTS Place were silenced just 5:11 into Game 5 when Tuch jumped on Morrissey's turnover and fired his sixth past Hellebuyck.

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.