The Vegas Golden Knights are the real deal, becoming the first team to advance to the conference semifinals in this year’s playoffs.
Vegas eliminated the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday, winning Game Five of their first-round series by a final score of 4-3. The Golden Knights were down two goals at one point but rallied for the W.
“We were glad to get it over with tonight because they weren’t going away quietly,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “They made us earn it. It was a hard-fought hockey game. We got in that hole early and I just like how we’ve responded to adversity when it’s appeared during this playoff.”
Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner was great facing his former team, making 23 saves for the win. He had to hang tough for the final seconds and is now 8-1 since Vegas acquired him from the Blackhawks.
“It felt really nice for me to close this out because it’s a bit weird playing your old teams, especially that group,” Lehner said. “That’s a hell of a group, they treated me really well, got a lot of friends on that team, all love for that organization.”
Chicago’s Corey Crawford was solid for his team, making 35 saves Tuesday to follow up a magnificent Game Four performance in which he stopped 48 to stave off elimination. He was the best player for the Blackhawks.
With the win, Vegas became the third team in league history to win at least one post-season round in its first three years. Only the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues have done the same.
The Blackhawks might not like the outcome, but they came in as underdogs and played strong. Patrick Kane collected his 52nd career playoff goal Tuesday and the team killed off 14 straight power plays before Alec Martinez scored for Vegas in Game Five.
The Golden Knights owned the victory thanks in large part to their size and persistence. They forecheck and play a heavy game at both ends of the ice.
“They play hard, they play fast, but they also aren’t afraid to jump in the rush and make plays and use that transition to their advantage,” said Chicago’s Kane after the handshakes. “I think that’s maybe the next step for us. It’s tough to look on the brighter side right now after a loss. But that’s a good team over there and we can learn from them, like I said.”
Chicago will take that learning experience as they work toward their next phase, while Vegas has a bit of a wait for the next round. They’ll meet the next lowest seed to advance and it could be as much as a week before they play again. They will have to remain in the bubble and find a way to stay fresh and game-ready in the meantime.
Image: Jeff Vinnick/Getty