National Hockey League playoffs: Vegas, Tampa Bay move to conference finals

Steve Babineau  NHLI via Getty Images

After a lackluster loss two nights earlier, the Vegas Golden Knights responded with an energetic performance in Game 5 to move one victory away from their second playoff series win, and a berth in the Western Conference final in their inaugural season. (Especially considering that the National Hockey League was only four teams deep at that time.) And while the 1967-68 St. Louis Blues made the Stanley Cup Final, they did so thanks to playing in a division composed exclusively of expansion teams; they were swept in four games by the Original Six Montreal Canadians in that final.

Vegas, which cruised to the Pacific Division regular-season title, will play the victor of the Central Division second-round series between Winnipeg and Nashville in the Western Conference finals for a chance to reach the Stanley Cup Final. The Jets lead that series 3-2 heading into Game 6 at home on Monday night.

The Golden Knights took control of this game with some good fortune in the second period.

"I thought we had some good starts", Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said.

The Sharks ended Fleury's bid for a fourth shutout this postseason when Labanc sniped a wrist shot top shelf, glove-side for a power-play goal to make it 4-1 at 9:35. He allowed just three goals in a first-round sweep against Los Angeles, posted shutouts in Games 1 and 6 against the Sharks and was also spectacular in an overtime win in Game 3.

"We just didn't find a way to put any pucks in the net", captain Joe Pavelski said.

"You get this far and you lose, it's disappointing". "It's extra disappointing when you don't play the way that you know that you're capable of. As a team, individually, that's something that's very hard to take".

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The Sharks bite was not enough to pierce the strong armor of the Golden Knights. There was a lot of pucks that rolled by the post or hit the post or landed in the crease that we just couldn't seem to get by Fleury.

There were times during the series when the Sharks controlled the neutral zone and prevented the Golden Knights from entering their offensive zone at high speed.

"It's a bit insane thinking about it for sure", defenseman Brayden McNabb said.

At the 15:38 mark, Schmidt's shot from just inside the blue line went off the inside of the post to the right of Jones, off the camera in the middle of the net and back out. His shot from in close slipped under Jones for his fourth goal of the playoffs and a 1-0 Vegas lead.

I think we did a great job of limiting the opportunities in the last two periods, they didn't have a whole lot of chances, but when they did, we had the guy back there to make the saves.

"I've never seen something like that happen where they blew the play dead".

Hertl hit the crossbar on a partial breakaway and Logan Couture whiffed on a rebound attempt with an open net. "It's a fine line". "Vegas deserves to be moving on". "I still have my grandkids there so the next couple days are going to be awesome". Fleury made 28 saves and four were made by the net iron. The Sharks were desperate, they had to have this game, and Vegas simply didn't give them a chance to take it. Vegas F Oscar Lindberg made his playoff debut, taking Tomas Tatar's place on Cody Eakin's line, while Ryan Carpenter also returned to the Golden Knights' lineup, taking Tomas Nosek's spot on Pierre-Edouard Bellemare's line along with William Carrier.

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