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Coyle caps first two-goal comeback win for Boston this year

Charlie Coyle scored the game-winning goal 34 seconds into overtime to secure a, 4-3, victory for the Boston Bruins against the Buffalo Sabres Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.

It was the first two-goal deficit comeback win of the season for the Bruins as Linus Ullmark (8-5-0, 2.55 goals-against average, .919 save percentage in 13 games played) made 21 saves on 24 shots faced in the win.

Sabres goaltender, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (2-3-2, 2.41 goals-against average, .927 save percentage) turned aside 37 out of 41 shots against in the overtime loss.

Boston improved to 15-10-2 (32 points) on the season and remained stuck in 5th place while pulling to within one point of the Detroit Red Wings in the Atlantic Division standings for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Buffalo fell to 10-17-6 (26 points) overall– trapped behind the Bruins in 6th place in the Atlantic.

The B’s also improved to 8-5-1 at home this season, as well as 3-0-0 against the Sabres in 2021-22 with one game remaining against Buffalo on April 28th at TD Garden.

After losing, 3-1, to the New York Islanders at UBS Arena on Dec. 16th, six games were postponed due to Boston’s COVID-19 outbreak that led to the Bruins earning a 16-day holiday break instead of the usual three days off for Christmas.

Taylor Hall, Curtis Lazar, Brandon Carlo and Coyle were all added to the COVID protocol list that already featured names like, Brad Marchand, Craig Smith, Patrice Bergeron, Trent Frederic, Anton Blidh, Jeremy Swayman and Oskar Steen prior to the shutdown for the B’s (and eventual league pause as all 32 teams received a couple of extra days off– bookending the scheduled holiday break).

Seven players were cleared to return when testing resumed on Dec. 26th, Steen was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) and the rest of the players in protocol cleared by New Year’s Eve.

Meanwhile, the National Hockey League reinstated the use of a taxi squad of up to six players until the 2022 All-Star break after pulling out of the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

As such, John Moore was assigned to Boston’s taxi squad with the anticipation of unrestricted free agent goaltender, Tuukka Rask, joining the roster soon too, which could mean that Swayman ends up getting the bump to the press box until February upon Rask’s return.

Also, if you’re wondering what Rask’s rehabilitation stint would look like, it’s been reported by The Athletic‘s Fluto Shinzawa that Rask would get a few games in Providence while the B’s are on the road in Tampa and Detroit before officially rejoining Boston and returning to NHL action after being sidelined from offseason hip surgery.

Of course, when Rask returns and if the taxi squad goes away, the Bruins might feel it’s best for Swayman’s development to continue to get some game action and send him to the AHL for the remainder of the year– rolling with NHL veteran netminders, Ullmark and Rask, down the stretch.

With everyone back from COVID protocol, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, juggled his lines on Saturday against Buffalo.

Marchand and Bergeron suited up on the first line and were joined by Smith on right wing as David Pastrnak was demoted to the second line with Erik Haula at center and Hall at left wing.

Coyle centered the third line with Jake DeBrusk and Nick Foligno on his wings, while Tomáš Nosek anchored the fourth line, flanked by Frederic and Lazar.

On defense, Cassidy paired Matt Grzelcyk with Charlie McAvoy on the first defensive pairing and rounded out his top-four defenders with Mike Reilly alongside Carlo.

Derek Forbort suited up with Connor Clifton on the third pairing while Jakub Zboril (torn ACL in his right knee) is out for the rest of the regular season since sustaining an injury on Dec. 2nd in Nashville and undergoing surgery on Dec. 16th.

With Moore designated for the taxi squad and Zboril out due to injury, Blidh and Karson Kuhlman were the only healthy scratches for Boston on Saturday.

Alex Tuch opened the day’s action with a cross checking infraction 13 seconds into the first period, yielding the afternoon’s first power play to Boston.

The Bruins, however, weren’t able to capitalize on their first skater advantage of the game.

Moments later, Vinnie Hinostroza (6) riffled a shot from the high slot that may have deflected off of Foligno and into the twine under Ullmark’s blocker– giving the Sabres a, 1-0, lead at 6:33 of the first period.

Brett Murray (4) and Rasmus Dahlin (15) tallied the assists on Hinostroza’s first goal back from being in the league’s COVID protocol.

Less than a minute later, Anders Bjork cut a rut to the sin bin against his former team for boarding Forbort at 7:07.

Once more, though, Boston wasn’t able to score on the power play.

Heading into the first intermission, Buffalo held onto a, 1-0, lead on the scoreboard, despite trailing the Bruins in shots on goal, 13-5.

The Sabres held the advantage in blocked shots (4-2), giveaways (6-1) and faceoff win percentage (54-46), while the B’s led in takeaways (2-1).

Both teams had seven hits aside after one period of play, while only the Bruins had any time on the skater advantage and went 0/2 heading into the middle frame.

Jeff Skinner tripped up Marchand 31 seconds into the second period and presented Boston with another chance on the power play that ultimately went by the wayside.

Though they didn’t score on the advantage, the Bruins did manage to catch the Sabres in the vulnerable minute after special teams play as Smith (3) buried a rebound from the doorstep on a garbage goal– tying the game, 1-1, at 3:47 of the second period.

Marchand (17) and McAvoy (12) notched the assists as the B’s got on the scoreboard.

Less than a minute later, Haula cut a rut to the box for holding the stick at 4:19 and was shortly followed by his teammate at 5:33 when Nosek tripped up Peyton Krebs.

Buffalo went on a 5-on-3 power play for the next 45 seconds and even used their timeout to draw up a plan for the two-skater advantage, but couldn’t muster anything past Ullmark as Boston’s penalty killing unit stood tall in front of their goaltender.

Midway through the period, however, Tuch fired a shot that rebounded right to the slot as Skinner (10) crashed the net and sent the puck past Ullmark’s glove side to give the Sabres the lead once again, 2-1.

Tuch (2) and Tage Thompson (9) had the assists on Skinner’s goal at 11:32 of the second period.

A few minutes later, Tuch made a visit to the penalty box for interference at 14:17, but Boston wasn’t able to score on yet another power play.

Shortly after killing off Tuch’s minor, Buffalo went on the advantage as Smith was penalized for hooking Luukkonen at 18:25.

It didn’t take the Sabres too long to capitalize on the ensuing power play as Tuch (1) wired a shot over Ullmark’s blocker for his first goal as a Sabre at 19:11 of the second period.

Krebs (1) and Thompson (10) had the assists on Tuch’s power-play goal and Buffalo extended their lead to two-goals, 3-1, as the middle frame winded down and gave way to the second intermission.

Through 40 minutes of action at TD Garden on Saturday afternoon, the visiting Sabres led, 3-1, on the scoreboard, despite the home team Bruins dominating in shots on goal, 26-14, including a, 13-9, advantage in the second period alone.

Buffalo maintained the advantage in blocked shots (8-3), takeaways (4-1), giveaways (6-2) and hits (11-10), while the two teams split faceoff win%, 50-50.

The Sabres were 1/3 on the power play, while the Bruins were 0/4 heading into the final frame of regulation.

DeBrusk led a charge into the attacking zone with a burst of speed and a shot that rebounded off of Luukkonen back into the slot as Foligno (1) crashed the net and elevated a backhander over Luukkonen’s outstretched pads for his first goal in a Bruins uniform at 3:24 of the third period.

DeBrusk (4) had the only assist on Folingo’s goal as the B’s trailed, 3-2.

Boston rallied with momentum on their side as Hall (6) broke into the attacking zone and patiently waited before sending a toe-drag snap shot over the glove side of the Sabres netminder to tie the game, 3-3, at 4:50 of the third period.

Grzelcyk (6) and McAvoy (13) notched the assists on Hall’s goal as the Bruins scored a pair in a span of 1:25.

Midway through the third, Smith tripped Dahlin and presented the Sabres with the last power play of the afternoon at 13:27 of the third period.

Buffalo did not convert on the ensuing advantage.

In fact, neither team managed to score in the remainder of regulation, necessitating overtime after a brief sound of the horn to signal the end of 60 minutes of action.

Boston led in shots on goal, 40-23, and had a, 14-9, advantage in the third period alone.

The Sabres led in blocked shots (10-9), takeaways (4-2) and giveaways (9-2), while the Bruins led in faceoff win% (51-49). Both teams amassed 14 hits each.

As there were no penalties called in the overtime period, Buffalo finished the afternoon 1/4 on the power play, while Boston went 0/4 on the skater advantage.

Cassidy sent out Bergeron, Marchand and McAvoy to begin the extra frame while Sabres head coach, Don Granato, countered with Skinner, Thompson and Dahlin.

It didn’t take long for both teams to barely get through the first shift of overtime and start replacing players one-by-one as Coyle touched the ice– fresh from the bench.

Marchand skated deep into the offensive zone before dropping a pass back to Coyle in the high slot whereby Coyle (8) sent the rubber biscuit high over Luukkonen’s glove side to seal the deal on a, 4-3, come from behind overtime victory for Boston.

Marchand (18) and McAvoy (14) had the assists on Coyle’s game-winner 34 seconds into overtime and the Bruins kicked off 2022, in the win column.

The B’s finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal, 41-24, despite both teams managing to fire one shot on net in overtime alone.

Boston also wrapped up Saturday’s action leading in faceoff win% (52-48), while Buffalo exited TD Garden leading in blocked shots (10-9), giveaways (9-2) and hits (15-14).

The Bruins improved to 1-1 in overtime this season (2-2 past regulation), while the Sabres fell to 1-5 in overtime (3-6 past regulation) in 2021-22.

The B’s improved to 5-6-2 (4-3-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 3-5-1 (3-2-1 at home) when trailing after the first period and 3-7-2 (3-3-1 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.

Buffalo fell to 7-5-3 (3-3-3 on the road) when scoring first, 2-1-2 (1-1-2 on the road) when leading after the first period and 7-2-4 (3-2-2 on the road) when leading after two periods in 2021-22.

The Bruins venture to Detroit for a quick visit against the Red Wings on Sunday before hosting the New Jersey Devils next Tuesday (Jan. 4th) and Minnesota Wild next Thursday (Jan. 6th). Boston then visits the Tampa Bay Lightning next Saturday before swinging through Washington, D.C. on Jan. 10th.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Golden Knights steal Game 4 on the road in OT, even series 2-2

“Experts” said gambling would never pay off, yet Peter DeBoer gave Robin Lehner his second start of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 4 at Bell Centre on Sunday night and the Vegas Golden Knights went on to win, 2-1, in overtime– tying their series with the Montréal Canadiens 2-2 in the process.

Nicolas Roy joined exclusive company as one of ten players born in Québec to score a game-winning overtime goal in the postseason against the Habs.

Roy became the first player to do so since Martin St. Louis gave the New York Rangers a Game 4 overtime victory against the Canadiens on home ice in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final.

Meanwhile, Lehner (1-1, 3.97 goals-against average, .877 save percentage in two games played) made 27 saves on 28 shots against in the win for Vegas.

Montréal goaltender, Carey Price (10-5, 2.09 goals-against average, .931 save percentage in 15 games played) stopped 19 out of 21 shots faced in the loss.

The Canadiens were still without Jake Evans, while Lehner earned the start in net for the Golden Knights over Marc-Andre Fleury and Chandler Stephenson remained out.

Luke Richardson was once again in command behind the bench for Montréal while Dominique Ducharme remains in self-isolation since testing positive for COVID-19.

Ducharme is not the only member of this series missing time now as Vegas General Manager, Kelly McCrimmon, was spotted without a mask on Friday night during Game 3 and tested positive on Sunday ahead of Game 4.

McCrimmon will now be isolated a la Ducharme for the next couple of weeks at most.

There were no goals and no penalties in the opening frame as the two teams swapped a few chances here and there.

Heading into the first intermission, the score remained tied, 0-0, while the Canadiens led in shots on goal, 11-4. Montréal also held an advantage in takeaways (2-1) and hits (17-10), while Vegas led in blocked shots (5-4) and giveaways (8-5).

The two teams split faceoff win percentage, 50-50, and each club had yet to see time on the skater advantage after one period.

Late in the middle frame Tomas Nosek and Shea Weber exchanged pleasantries and became entangled, yielding unsportsmanlike conduct minors at 14:45 of the second period.

Just as the two teams were set to resume 5-on-5 action after almost a pair of minutes at 4-on-4, Nick Suzuki hooked Alec Martinez and presented Vegas with a couple seconds of a 4-on-3 advantage at 16:44.

The Golden Knights couldn’t convert on the resulting abbreviated 5-on-4 power play as the Habs killed off their 26th consecutive infraction this postseason.

Shortly after Vegas’ power play expired, Montréal capitalized on the vulnerable minute after special teams play as Suzuki sent Paul Byron (2) into the attacking zone on a breakaway before No. 41 in bleu, blanc et rouge elevated the puck over Lehner to give the Canadiens a, 1-0, lead at 18:55 of the second period.

Suzuki (6) had the only assist on Byron’s tally after the Golden Knights nearly scored at the other end of the rink after Alex Pietrangelo rang the iron and Mark Stone fanned on a rebound.

As the two teams were getting ready for the second intermission, Martinez interfered with Josh Anderson and cut a rut to the penalty box at 19:38, resulting in a split power play for Montréal between the tail end of the second period and the opening minute of the final frame of regulation.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Canadiens led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, as well as, 20-12, in shots on goal– including a, 9-8, advantage in the second period alone.

Montréal led in blocked shots (10-9), takeaways (4-2) and hits (30-18) after two periods, while Vegas led in giveaways (11-10) and faceoff win% (57-43).

As there were no penalties called in the remainder of the game, both teams finished 0/1 on the power play on Sunday night.

Midway through the final frame of regulation, Brayden McNabb (1) received a pass from William Karlsson and beat Price with a one-timer between Price’s body and glove on the short side to tie the game, 1-1, at 10:37 of the third period.

Karlsson (10) and Shea Theodore (8) had the only assists on McNabb’s goal as the two teams continued to trade chances with the Golden Knights surging in momentum.

After 60 minutes, Vegas and Montréal were tied, 1-1, despite the Canadiens leading in shots on goal, 28-18, including an, 8-6, advantage in the third period alone.

The Golden Knights led in hits (40-24) and faceoff win% (57-43), while the Habs dominated in blockes shots (19-16), takeaways (6-4), giveaways (18-15) and hits (40-24).

It didn’t take long in overtime for Roy (4) to end the game with a Vegas victory after Max Pacioretty wrapped around the net, spun, then flung a shot on goal that rebounded to Roy, who had a couple of chances before roofing the puck top-shelf while Price flailed in the crease while loosing his stick.

Pacioretty (6) and Alex Tuch (5) had the assists on Roy’s game-winning goal at 1:18 of the overtime period as the Golden Knights stole a, 2-1, win on the road in Game 4 and tied the series 2-2.

Montréal finished the night leading in shots on goal, 28-21, despite trailing Vegas, 3-0, in shots in the extra frame alone.

The Habs finished the night leading in blocked shots (19-16), giveaways (19-15) and hits (40-24), while the Golden Knights exited the building with the advantage in faceoff win% (56-44).

The Canadiens fell to 4-1 in overtime this postseason, while Vegas improved to 2-3 past regulation in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With the series even at two games apiece heading into Game 5 back in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday night, Vegas and Montréal’s best-of-seven series is virtually a de facto best-of-three games.

Puck drop is set for a little after 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday as the Golden Knights host the Canadiens and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for the action, while those in Canada can choose between SN or TVAS.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Golden Knights rout Canadiens, 4-1, in Game 1 of Semifinals

For the second time in their four years of existence, the Vegas Golden Knights are three wins away from another Stanley Cup Final appearance after defeating the Montréal Canadiens, 4-1, in Game 1 of their Semifinals matchup Monday night at T-Mobile Arena.

Alec Martinez is no stranger to scoring game-winning goals in the postseason as the Golden Knights defender notched the eventual game-winning goal early in the second period to the pleasure of the home crowd as Marc-Andre Fleury (9-4, 1.84 goals-against average, .927 save percentage in 13 games played) made 28 saves on 29 shots against in the win.

Canadiens goaltender, Carey Price (8-4, 2.15 goals-against average, .929 save percentage in 12 games played), stopped 26 out of 30 shots faced in the loss.

On Jan. 18, 2020, less than two months before the ongoing global pandemic began, the Habs beat Vegas, 5-4, in a shootout victory at Bell Centre in Montréal, Québec across the United States-Canadian border.

That was the last time the two clubs met each other before kicking off their best-of-seven series on Monday night in the first U.S.-based team vs. Canadian-based team matchup of the league’s 2020-21 calendar.

Jeff Petry, Jake Evans and Jon Merrill were not available for Montréal in Game 1 as the trio of skaters remain out of the lineup due to injury.

Early in the opening frame, Jonathan Marchessault caught Alexander Romanov with a high stick and presented the game’s first power play to the Canadiens as a result at 2:38 of the first period.

Montréal was not successful on the ensuing skater advantage.

Almost midway through the first period, the Habs iced the puck and proceeded to lose a faceoff in their own zone, whereby Vegas worked the puck back to Brayden McNabb for the “D-to-D” pass along the point.

Shea Theodore (1) unloaded on a slap shot that beat Price on the blocker side while the Canadiens goaltender never saw the rubber biscuit speed past him as there was heavy net front traffic limiting his view from Montréal’s crease.

McNabb (3) and Chandler Stephenson (6) tallied the assists on Theodore’s first goal of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Golden Knights took a, 1-0, lead at 9:15 of the first period as a result.

Phillip Danault hooked Alex Tuch late in the period and presented Vegas with the night’s first power play at 18:20, but the Golden Knights weren’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Heading into the first intermission, Vegas led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing Montréal in shots on goal, 12-8.

The Canadiens led in blocked shots (7-4) and faceoff win percentage (56-44), while the Golden Knights led in giveaways (6-1) and hits (23-21).

Both teams managed to have two takeaways each and were 0/1 on the power play after one period.

Seven seconds into the second period, Ben Chiarot cut a rut to the penalty box for sending an errant puck over the glass– yielding an automatic delay of game infraction and presenting Vegas with another power play.

Though the Golden Knights didn’t convert on the skater advantage, they were successful in the vulnerable minute after special teams action as Theodore setup Martinez (3) with a pump fake pass for the one-timer goal from Martinez’s office at the dot while Price overcommitted on Theodore’s look– thereby scoring on the Habs netminder on what was rendered as a de facto empty net.

Theodore (7) and Reilly Smith (6) tallied the assists on the goal as Vegas pulled ahead, 2-0, at 2:18 of the second period.

Midway through the middle frame, Joel Edmundson caught Marchessault with a slash at 5:04, but the Golden Knight’s resulting power play was short lived as Theodore tripped up Paul Byron at 5:20.

After a span of 1:45 at 4-on-4 action, the Canadiens wound up with an abbreviated power play, but couldn’t convert on the short skater advantage.

Moments later, Brett Kulak tripped up Stephenson at 8:20, but Vegas was not successful on the ensuing power play.

A few minutes after Kulak’s trip to the penalty box, Montréal went on the power play as William Carrier took his turn in the sin bin for roughing at 11:46.

The Habs worked quick on the ensuing skater advantage as Corey Perry passed the puck to Tyler Toffoli for a shot that generated a rebound right to Cole Caufield (1) as the young Canadiens forward pounced on the loose puck and buried it in the twine for his first career Stanley Cup Playoffs goal.

Toffoli (7) and Perry (4) had the assists on Caufield’s power-play goal as Montréal cut Vegas’ lead in half, 2-1, at 12:05 of the second period.

Less than a minute later, however, the Golden Knights responded on the scoreboard as Mattias Janmark (4) redirected a puck from the doorstep that had already deflected off of Canadien forward, Josh Anderson, to make it, 3-1, for Vegas at 12:58.

Tuch (4) and Zach Whitecloud (3) notched the assists on Janmark’s goal 53 seconds after the Habs ruined Fleury’s bid for a shutout.

The Golden Knights, meanwhile, continued to be successful at converting attacking zone faceoff wins into effective offensive markings on the scoreboard.

Through 40 minutes of play, Vegas led, 3-1, on the scoreboard and pulled ahead of Montréal in shots on goal, 21-17, thanks to a, 13-5, advantage in the second period alone.

The Habs, however, continued to dominated in blocked shots (12-8), takeaways (8-7), hits (39-30) and faceoff win% (56-44), while the Golden Knights led in giveaways (9-4).

Montréal was 1/3 on the power play, while Vegas was 0/4 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame, where no penalties were called in the last 20 minutes of action.

Smith sent a pass to Nick Holden (2) through the high slot for a catch and release goal to give Vegas a three-goal lead, 4-1, at 10:06 of the third period.

Smith (7) and William Karlsson (8) tallied the assists as the Golden Knights defended their crease for the rest of the night and protected their lead even after Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, pulled Price for an extra attacker with about 4:35 remaining in regulation.

Price didn’t remain out of the net for long, however, as he was returned to the crease with about 35 seconds left on the clock, seeing as the Habs were still trailing by a few goals and with nothing left to lose except for pride, if Vegas had found a way to score one more goal on the evening.

At the final horn, the Golden Knights had won, 4-1, and taken a 1-0 series lead as a result.

Vegas finished Monday’s effort leading in shots on goal, 30-29, despite trailing Montréal, 12-9, in the third period alone.

The Golden Knights wound up with the final advantage in blocked shots (16-15) and giveaways (10-5), while the Canadiens exited the building leading in hits (52-44) and faceoff win% (56-44).

The Habs finished 1/3 on the skater advantage, while Vegas went 0/4 on the power play in Game 1.

The Golden Knights host the Canadiens for Game 2 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Wednesday night with a 1-0 series lead.

Puck drop is expected a little after 9 p.m. ET and fans in the United States can tune to NBCSN for the action, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS for coverage.

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Pacioretty or Suzuki, hope you made the right choice in 2018

There are four teams remaining in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and for the first time since 1981, there are no Conference Finals going on.

Due to the ongoing global pandemic, the National Hockey League was forced to temporarily realign the divisions and get rid of conferences for a season as the league and it’s players’ union did what they could to get an abbreviated 56-game regular season schedule and a full Stanley Cup Playoffs experience in the history books.

In May, ESPN‘s Greg Wyshynski reported that the league would not award the Prince of Wales Trophy and the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl to the victors of the equivalent third round, but after the Vegas Golden Knights eliminated the Colorado Avalanche in six games to conclude the Second Round of this year’s postseason last Thursday, the league apparently changed its mind.

With a regular all-Eastern Conference matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders, as well as 50% of the teams representing the Western Conference in the other Semifinal series, both trophies will be awarded to the third round series winners after all.

The winner of the Lightning and Islanders series will take home the Prince of Wales Trophy, while either the Golden Knights or the Montréal Canadiens will win the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl.

Montréal can join a short list of teams to have won both trophies in franchise history, as only the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks and Islanders have won each before.

How is this possible, you ask?

Well, for starters, the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl was introduced in the 1967-68 season and awarded to the team that finished with the best regular season record in the West Division (the precursor to the Western Conference in the modern era), while the Prince of Wales Trophy dates back to the 1925-26 season and, you guessed it, eventually became the East Division (pre-Eastern Conference days) equivalent.

Ahead of the 1981-82 season, however, the league changed its postseason to include a Conference Finals round, thus involving these trophies in the playoffs and eventually leading to the creation of the Presidents’ Trophy for the team with the best regular season record since the 1985-86 season.

So anyway, the teams mentioned above that won both have changed conferences and divisions over time.

Now let’s talk about the other half of the Semifinal matchups– the Golden Knights and the Canadiens.

(1) Vegas Golden Knights (40-14-2, 82 points) vs (4) Montréal Canadiens (24-21-11, 59 points)

Vegas: 56 games played, .732 points percentage, 30 regulation wins.

Montréal: 56 games played, .527 points percentage, 20 regulation wins.

The Vegas Golden Knights eliminated the Minnesota Wild in seven games (4-3) in the First Round before ousting the 2020-21 Presidents’ Trophy winning, Colorado Avalanche, in six games (4-2) in the Second Round to advance to the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals as the representative club from the Honda NHL West Division.

Vegas is making their second appearance in the third round of the playoffs– their first since 2018– and is in search of the franchise’s first Stanley Cup ring in just their fourth season of existence.

Mark Stone (21-40–61 totals in 55 games) lead the Golden Knights in team scoring in the regular season and was named a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, while Max Pacioretty (24-27–51 totals in 48 games) and Jonathan Marchessault (18-26–44 totals in 55 games) rounded out the top-three in scoring on the roster.

Through 13 postseason games thus far, William Karlsson leads the Golden Knights in playoff scoring with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in that span.

Marchessault, Stone, Pacioretty and Alex Pietrangelo are tied for the second-most points in the playoffs for Vegas so far with eight points each in 13 games (except for Pacioretty, who has eight points in seven games).

Alex Tuch, Mattias Janmark and Reilly Smith are tied for the sixth-most points on the roster in postseason scoring with seven points each.

In the crease, Marc-Andre Fleury led the way with a 26-10-0 record in 36 games played (36 starts) in the regular season, as well as a 1.98 goals-against average, a .928 save percentage and six shutouts in that span.

Meanwhile, Robin Lehner amassed a 13-4-2 record in 19 games (19 starts) to go with a 2.29 goals-against average, a .913 save percentage and one shutout.

Oscar Dansk even made an appearance with a 1-0-0 record in one game (one start), as well as a 3.93 goals-against average and an .862 save percentage, while Logan Thompson made a relief appearance in one game, earned no decision and had a 1.000 save percentage as a result.

Fleury’s gone on to have an 8-4 record in 12 games (12 stars) this postseason, as well as a 1.91 goals-against average, a .923 save percentage and one shutout entering the Semifinals.

Meanwhile, Lehner made one appearance (one start) thus far in the playoffs and went 0-1 with a 7.03 goals-against average and an .811 save percentage.

At the other end of the rink, the Montréal Canadiens were the winners of the Scotia NHL North Division, having overcome a 3-1 series deficit in seven games (4-3) against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the First Round prior to sweeping the Winnipeg Jets (4-0) in the Second Round to advance to the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals.

Poised as Canada’s team, the Habs have not won the Cup since 1993, and were last in the third round in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final– losing to the New York Rangers in six games (4-2) in the process.

The Canadiens haven’t even been back to the Stanley Cup Final since 1993, when they defeated Wayne Gretzky and the Los Angeles Kings in five games (4-1).

Tyler Toffoli (28-16–44 totals in 52 games) led the way for Montréal in team scoring this season in a prolific display of offensive prowess over a shorter than normal regular season schedule.

Jeff Petry chipped in 42 points (12 goals, 30 assists) from the defense in 55 games and Nick Suzuki (15-26–41 totals in 56 games) rounded out the top-three in Canadiens scoring in 2020-21.

Thus far in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Toffoli’s continued to lead his teammates with 4-6–10 totals in 11 games, while Suzuki has eight points (four goals, four assists) in that span.

Joel Armia and Eric Staal are each tied for the third-most points on the Habs’ postseason roster, notching seven points through 11 games for Armia and 10 games for Staal.

In the crease, Jake Allen actually played in more games than Carey Price as Price dealt with injuries throughout the season.

Allen amassed an 11-12-5 record in 29 games (27 starts) and had a 2.68 goals-against average, as well as a .907 save percentage in the process, while Price managed to put up a 12-7-5 record in 25 games (25 starts) and had a 2.64 goals-against average, a .901 save percentage and one shutout in that span.

Cayden Primeau also had some action in the crease for Montréal this season, recording a 1-2-1 record in four games (four starts), as well as a 4.16 goals-against average and an .849 save percentage.

Thus far in the playoffs, it’s been all Price for Montréal as the Canadiens longtime starter has an 8-3 record in 11 games (11 starts), a 1.97 goals-against average, a .935 save percentage and one shutout in that span.


These two teams– the oldest in the league that predates the NHL (Montréal) and the new kids on the block (Vegas) at least until the Seattle Kraken pick players for their team next month in the 2021 Expansion Draft– are meeting for the first time in a playoff series in what is sure to be more than just an incredible experience.

They also didn’t get to play each other in the regular season because of the league’s temporary realignment, let alone the fact that the United States and Canadian border was closed.

It’ll be the first international matchup in the league this season with the Canadian government providing an exemption for games at Bell Centre.

Now, for starters, there’s the obvious “this would never happen regularly at least until the Stanley Cup Final” factor, but there’s also a shared history that has these clubs intertwined– the Max Pacioretty trade.

On Sept. 10, 2018, the Golden Knights made a splash by trading their second-highest drafted player in franchise history– Nick Suzuki at 13th overall in 2017– along with Tomas Tatar and a 2019 2nd round pick originally belonging to the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Canadiens for Pacioretty.

Vegas may have stumbled into “win now” mode to the average eye, but Golden Knights owner, Bill Foley, has long intended to replicate– if not beat– the Philadelphia Flyers’ emergence on the Stanley Cup scene.

Foley cried out for his team’s first Cup ring within three years of existence and something had to be done to spruce up their top-six forward group.

Enter Pacioretty, the longtime Canadien and former captain in Montréal in a bit of a disagreement regarding whether or not he and Habs General Manager, Marc Bergevin, could ever reach terms of a deal on an extension.

So Bergevin got bold.

He dealt Montréal’s most recognizable skater (not goaltender named “Price”, mind you) to Vegas for a high-caliber prospect, Tatar and a second round pick that he later flipped.

At the time, the Golden Knights claimed victory in the trade– acquiring the biggest star in the here and now, though they’re still searching for that elusive first Cup– while Canadiens fans lamented the loss of their prolific scorer in Pacioretty, but remained hopeful for the future with Suzuki coming into the fold as the team had just drafted Jesperi Kotkaniemi 3rd overall in the 2018 Draft in June.

Three years later, the Habs are a Cinderella team, while Vegas is right where they expected to be– except neither expected to play each other before the Stanley Cup Final, which only amplifies the magnitude of the Pacioretty trade even more.

Oh, then there’s the battle of Fleury and Price in net too, which by now, is worth pointing out that we haven’t even gotten into how each team could win the series.

For the Golden Knights, it’s their potent offense that’s generated throughout the lineup.

Vegas head coach, Peter DeBoer, rolls four lines and three defensive pairings and any and all players on the ice can find a way to wire a puck into the twine one way or another.

For the Canadiens, it all comes down to Price as the team’s offense has mostly relied upon a top-heavy approach.

That’s not to say that Corey Perry or Staal can’t be a determining factor in the clutch, but rather that in a standard “which team has the better offense, better defense and/or better goaltending” checklist, well, Vegas has scored 40 goals this postseason to Montréal’s 28 goals for.

Price should help the Canadiens steal a game or two in the series, but unless their miracle run finds a way to continue, the Golden Knights should wrap things up in six games.

Schedule:

6/14- Game 1 MTL @ VGK 9 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/16- Game 2 MTL @ VGK 9 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/18- Game 3 VGK @ MTL 8 PM ET on USA, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/20- Game 4 VGK @ MTL 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS

6/22- Game 5 MTL @ VGK 9 PM ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS*

6/24- Game 6 VGK @ MTL 8 PM ET on USA, CBC, SN, TVAS*

6/26- Game 7 MTL @ VGK 8 PM ET on NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS*

*If necessary

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Vegas to face Montréal in the Stanley Cup Semifinal

For the first time since 2018, the Vegas Golden Knights are heading back to the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as they defeated the Colorado Avalanche, 6-3, on Thursday night as Vegas clinched the series 4-2 on home ice at T-Mobile Arena.

Marc-Andre Fleury (8-4, 1.91 goals-against average, .923 save percentage in 12 games played) made 30 saves on 33 shots against in the win as the Golden Knights advanced to the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinal.

Vegas will face the Montréal Canadiens in their first ever postseason series as the two teams will battle for one spot in this year’s Stanley Cup Final, while the Tampa Bay Lightning host the New York Islanders in the other Semifinal matchup.

The National Hockey League announced after Game 6 in Vegas, that the winner of the Golden Knights versus Canadiens series will be presented the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl– traditionally awarded to the victor of the Western Conference Final in a non-pandemic timeline.

Meanwhile, the winner of the Lightning and Islanders series will be presented with the Prince Of Wales Trophy as is usually awarded to the victor of the Eastern Conference Final when the league isn’t forced into a temporary realignment without conferences due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Golden Knights are the first team in league history to win seven playoffs series’ in their first four years of existence.

At the other end of the rink, Philipp Grubauer (6-4, 2.61 goals-against average, .914 save percentage in 10 games played), stopped 17 out of 22 shots faced in the loss.

Avalanche forward, Nazem Kadri, served the last game of his eight-game suspension on Thursday, while head coach, Jared Bednar, almost wasn’t available to do his duty behind the bench as a COVID test irregularity prevented him from attending morning skate.

Bednar was later cleared hours before the game on another test.

Colorado jumped out ahead of Vegas less than a minute into the opening frame– emulating the Golden Knights’ patented style at home in the postseason– as Devon Toews (1) scored the game’s first goal on a catch and release shot over Fleury’s glove.

Nathan MacKinnon (6) and Brandon Saad (1) had the assists on Toews’ goal as the Avs pulled ahead, 1-0, 23 seconds into the first period.

Colorado’s lead didn’t last long, however, as it turns out Vegas can still score within the opening minutes of a playoff game on home ice even if they allow the game’s first goal.

Nick Holden (1) received a pass from Reilly Smith and floated a shot through Grubauer’s five-hole while the Avalanche goaltender was still looking to the right corner– completely unaware of the puck’s location on the ice.

Smith (5) and Nicolas Roy (4) tallied the assists on Holden’s goal as the Golden Knights tied the game, 1-1, at 1:15 of the first period.

Both teams managed to score on their first shot on goal in Game 6.

Moments later, Vegas almost took advantage of a complete swing in momentum as Alec Martinez rang the post with a shot, but he’d play a factor later in the period regardless.

Martinez sent a pass through the slot to William Karlsson (4) for a one-timer goal that beat Grubauer low on the short side between his pad and the post to make it, 2-1, Vegas at 15:06.

Heading into the first intermission, the Golden Knights led on the scoreboard, 2-1, and trailed the Avalanche in shots on goal, 12-10.

Vegas held the advantage in everything else, however, as they dominated in blocked shots (15-5), takeaways (12-1), giveaways (5-0), hits (23-15) and faceoff win percentage (53-47).

Neither team had seen any action on the power play after one period.

Alex Pietrangelo kicked things off in the middle frame with an errant puck over the glass and an automatic delay of game penalty as a result at 2:23 of the second period.

Colorado took full advantage of the ensuing power play as Mikko Rantanen (5) sent a shot off of Zach Whitecloud’s skate and into the twine after the rubber biscuit clipped Fleury’s blocker on its way by.

MacKinnon (7) and Gabriel Landeskog (9) had the assists on Rantanen’s power-play goal as the Avalanche tied things up, 2-2, at 3:47 of the second period.

Midway through the middle frame, Shea Theodore worked the puck to Pietrangelo for the shot and subsequent redirection by Keegan Kolesar (1) as the Golden Knights forward pocketed his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal and gave his team a, 3-2, lead at 14:27.

Pietrangelo (7) and Theodore (5) notched the assists on the marker, but Vegas wasn’t able to pull away just yet as Colorado kept things close.

Andre Burakovsky (1) scored his first of the 2021 postseason off the post and in while Martinez inadvertently screened his own goaltender.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (3) and Cale Makar (8) had the assists on Burakovsky’s goal as the Avs tied the game, 3-3, at 16:52.

Yet, just as quick as things can be evened up, things can fall apart as the Golden Knights’ forecheck forced a turnover in Colorado’s defensive zone as the Avalanche couldn’t make an exit.

Vegas worked the puck deep with an intentional shot wide of the net that caromed off the boards to the side of the slot where Pietrangelo (1) pounced on the loose puck for the eventual game-winning goal.

Alex Tuch (3) and Max Pacioretty (4) added the helpers as the Golden Knights took a, 4-3, lead at 19:42 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action, Vegas led, 4-3, on the scoreboard, despite trailing Colorado, 22-16, in shots on goal, including a, 10-6, advantage for the Avs in the second period alone.

The Golden Knights continued to lead in blocked shots (24-7), takeaways (16-1), giveaways (12-1) and hits (37-31), however, as both teams managed to split faceoff win%, 50-50, through two periods.

The Avalanche were 1/1 on the power play, while Vegas had yet to see time on the skater advantage entering the final frame.

Vegas executed a play unlike any other with tremendous hand-eye coordination as Brayden McNabb let go of a shot that was redirected by Theodore, then by William Carrier (1) on the doorstep on a zig-zag play that extended the Golden Knights’ lead to two-goals.

Theodore (6) and McNabb (2) had the primary and secondary assists, respectively, as Carrier’s goal made it, 5-3, for Vegas at 11:46 of the third period.

Less than a minute later, the Golden Knights went on the power play for the first time Thursday night as Ryan Graves cut a rut to the sin bin for tripping Karlsson at 12:33.

Vegas was unsuccessful on the resulting skater advantage, however.

It was no big deal, though, as Colorado pulled Grubauer for an extra attacker with about 3:26 remaining in the game, thereby giving the Golden Knights ample opportunity to score at least one empty net goal.

And that’s just what they did.

Martinez botched a surefire empty net goal, so Pacioretty (4) cleaned things up by putting the icing on the cake with some extra insurance, 6-3, as a result of his unassisted empty net goal at 16:50 of the third period.

Bednar pulled his goaltender again for an extra skater, but Colorado couldn’t get another puck past Fleury.

At the final horn, Vegas had won, 6-3, and finished off the Avalanche 4-2 in the series– eliminating the Avs in six games in the process after Colorado rocketed out of the gate in the series with a, 7-1, win in Game 1 and a thrilling, 3-2, overtime victory in Game 2.

The Avalanche finished the night leading in shots on goal, 33-23, including an, 11-7, advantage in the third period alone and wrapped up Thursday’s effort leading in faceoff win% (53-47).

Meanwhile, the Golden Knights exited their own building leading in blocked shots (34-18), giveaways (15-1) and hits (46-42) in Game 6.

Colorado finished the game 1/1 on the power play, while Vegas went 0/1.

With the win, Fleury moved into sole possession of the fourth most postseason victories by a goaltender in league history with his 89th career Stanley Cup Playoff win.

Vegas will have home ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Semifinal and the Stanley Cup Final, should they eliminate Montréal in the Semifinal, by virtue of having the best regular season record of the remaining four playoff teams.

Game 1 at T-Mobile Arena is set for Monday night at 9 p.m. ET.

Viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for coverage, while those in Canada can tune to CBC, SN or TVAS.

Meanwhile, the Islanders open up their series with the Lightning on the road in Game 1, Sunday afternoon at Amalie Arena with puck drop set for 3 p.m. ET.

Fans in the United States looking to catch Tampa and New York can tune to NBC, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.

To summarize, that’s Sunday, June 13th for Game 1 between the Isles and Bolts and Monday, June 14th for Game 1 of the Habs and Golden Knights.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Vegas completes comeback with OT victory in Game 5

Hockey is a 60-minute game and generally requires a “full 60-minute effort” to win, you know, the game, but the Colorado Avalanche didn’t do that on Tuesday, didn’t they?

If you read that in one of Bill Hader’s impression voices, give yourself a pat on the back.

Anyway, the Vegas Golden Knights scored two quick goals in the third period to send Game 5 into overtime, which was ended 50 seconds into the extra frame as the Golden Knights completed their comeback thanks to a game-winning goal from their captain, Mark Stone, and defeated the Avalanche, 3-2, on the road at Ball Arena in Denver.

Vegas leads the series 3-2 and can eliminate the 2020-21 Presidents’ Trophy winners on home ice in Game 6 on Thursday.

Marc-Andre Fleury (7-4, 1.81 goals-against average, .925 save percentage in 11 games played) made 28 saves on 30 shots against in the win for the Golden Knights.

Avs goaltender, Philipp Grubauer (6-3, 2.33 goals-against average, .925 save percentage in nine games played) stopped 22 out of 25 shots faced in the loss.

Colorado’s head coach, Jared Bednar, made two changes to his lineup, replacing Carl Soderberg and Kiefer Sherwood with Alex Newhook and Logan O’Connor.

Meanwhile, Nazem Kadri remains suspended for one more game after Tuesday’s effort. The earliest Kadri can return is if the Avalanche force a Game 7.

Mikko Rantanen fanned on a chance to score with an open net early in the opening frame, then bumped into Fleury and was assessed a minor penalty for goaltender interference as a result at 6:07 of the first period.

Vegas went on the power play for the first and only time of the night, but couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Late in the period, with just over a second remaining on the clock, Brandon Saad (7) entered the attacking zone and floated a shot over Fleury’s shoulder on the blocker side while the Golden Knights netminder botched a save by reaching across his chest with his glove hand and coming up empty as the puck hit the twine behind him.

Devon Toews (5) and Rantanen (8) tallied the assists on Saad’s goal as the Avalanche took a, 1-0, lead at 19:58 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, Colorado led, 1-0, on the scoreboard thanks to Saad’s fourth goal of the series.

The Avs also held the advantage in shots on goal, 10-9, and led in takeaways (8-2), giveaways (6-1), hits (13-8) and faceoff win percentage (59-41).

Meanwhile, Vegas led in blocked shots (8-7) and was 0/1 on the power play as Colorado had yet to see any time on the advantage entering the middle frame.

There were no penalties in the second period as the two clubs swapped chances, ultimately leading to a one-timer goal from the bumper for Joonas Donskoi (3)– giving the Avalanche a, 2-0, lead at 16:28 of the second period as a result.

Newhook (1) and Patrik Nemeth (1) notched the assists on Donskoi’s goal as the Avs took a, 2-0, lead heading into the second intermission.

Colorado held the advantage in shots on goal, 21-14, and led in second period shots alone, 11-5, while also dominating in takeaways (13-8), giveaways (8-2), hits (30-20) and faceoff win% (53-47).

Vegas led in blocked shots (19-8), which would soon haunt the Avs.

The Golden Knights were still 0/1 on the power play and the Avalanche had yet to see time on the skater advantage.

Just over a minute into the final frame, Alex Tuch (4) batted the puck out of mid-air while settling a saucer pass from Nicolas Roy past Grubauer to cut Colorado’s lead in half, 2-1.

Roy (3) and Mattias Janmark (4) had the assists on Tuch’s goal at 1:03 of the third period as Andre Burakovsky’s turnover in his own zone deflected off of Janmark’s stick and led to Tuch’s goal.

The Golden Knights pounced on the swing in momentum as the home crowd was momentarily stunned.

Gabriel Landeskog misfired on a pass intended for either J.T. Compher or Ryan Graves along the point, but the rubber biscuit bounced off of the Avalanche defender’s skate and led Vegas on a rush back the other direction, whereby William Karlsson setup Jonathan Marchessault (6) for the game-tying goal.

Karlsson (7) had the only assist as Marchessault made it, 2-2, at 4:07 of the third period.

Just like that, Colorado’s two-goal deficit was gone.

Two, quick, sloppy plays gone horribly wrong. Vegas was surging.

The Avalanche managed to survive the Golden Knights’ onslaught, but failed to score on their only power play when Shea Theodore sent an errant puck over the glass for an automatic delay of game infraction at 10:50.

At the end of regulation, Colorado and Vegas were deadlocked, 2-2, on the scoreboard, despite the Avalanche holding a, 28-24, advantage in total shots on goal.

The Golden Knights actually led in shots on goal in the third period alone, 10-7, while Vegas also held the advantage in blocked shots (24-12).

The Avs dominated in just about everything else, including takeaways (18-12), giveaways (11-5) and hits (40-31), as both teams went, 50-50, in faceoff win% entering the extra frame.

As there were no penalties called in overtime, both clubs finished 0/1 on the night on the power play.

Less than a minute into the extra period, as some fans were probably just getting back to their seats from the long line at the bathroom during the 15-minute intermission, Stone (5) notched his first career Stanley Cup Playoffs overtime game-winning goal– top shelf, right in the corner on Grubauer’s far glove side.

Max Pacioretty (3) and Alex Pietrangelo (6) had the assists on Stone’s goal 50 seconds into overtime as the pair of Golden Knights teammates worked a quick break after blocking a shot in their own end.

Vegas won Game 5, 3-2, and taken a 3-2 series lead as a result, despite finishing the night trialing in shots on goal, 30-25, including a, 2-1, advantage in overtime alone for the Avalanche.

The Golden Knights wrapped up Tuesday night’s effort leading in blocked shots (26-11), while the Avs led in giveaways (11-5) and hits (41-31).

The two teams finished the night, 50-50, in faceoff win%.

Vegas can eliminate Colorado on home ice at T-Mobile Arena on Thursday night in Game 6 of their 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs Second Round series.

Puck drop is expected a little after 9 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for coverage, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Vegas cruises to a, 5-1, victory over Colorado in Game 4, series tied 2-2

Whether it was the glove side or sheer puck luck, everything went the right way for the Vegas Golden Knights in their, 5-1, win against the Colorado Avalanche at T-Mobile Arena in Game 4 on Sunday night.

The home team has not lost a game in the series thus far as the clubs are tied 2-2 in the best-of-seven Second Round matchup, while Jonathan Marchessault recorded a hat trick in front of the home crowd.

Marc-Andre Fleury (6-4, 1.79 goals-against average, .924 save percentage in 10 games played) made 17 saves on 18 shots against in the win for Vegas.

Colorado netminder, Philipp Grubauer (6-2, 2.25 goals-against average, .929 save percentage in eight games played) stopped 30 out of 35 shots faced in the loss.

Nazem Kadri remained out of the lineup for Colorado with two games remaining in his suspension after Game 4, while Ryan Reaves returned to Vegas’ lineup after completing his two-game suspension.

Robin Lehner was also back for the Golden Knights as Fleury’s backup, relegating Logan Thompson back to the press box as a healthy scratch on Sunday night.

Brandon Saad (6) kicked things off with a goal from the doorstep on a rebound to make it, 1-0, for the Avalanche at 1:50 of the first period.

J.T. Compher (1) and Andre Burakovsky (3) tallied the assists as the Avs struck first, but would not strike again on the scoreboard on Sunday night.

Less than a minute later, Patrik Nemeth cut a rut to the penalty box for holding and presented Vegas with the first power play of the night at 2:43 of the opening frame.

The Golden Knights failed to convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Moments later, however, Vegas started to swing momentum in their favor as they were clearly dominating possession and generating more shots on goal than Colorado.

One shot from Reilly Smith rang the crossbar behind Grubauer and bounced through the crease before William Karlsson let go of a followup shot that deflected off of Marchessault (3) and into the twine.

Karlsson (4) notched the only assist on Marchessault’s first goal of the evening as the Golden Knights tied the game, 1-1, at 7:07.

Late in the period, Marchessault was sent to the sin bin after he tripped up Joonas Donskoi at 18:02, but the first skater advantage for the Avs didn’t last long as Cale Makar interfered with Smith at 18:24 and cut Colorado’s power play short at 18:24.

Neither team managed to score in the ensuing 4-on-4 action as the first period drew to a close with the Golden Knights and Avalanche tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard, despite Vegas outshooting Colorado, 15-9.

The Avalanche were 0/1 and the Golden Knights were 0/2 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Shortly after both teams emerged from the first intermission, Max Pacioretty (3) received a pass on a rush and beat Grubauer clean from the faceoff circle over the far glove side to give the Golden Knights their first lead of the night, 2-1.

Mark Stone (3) and Zach Whitecloud (2) tallied the assists as Vegas went ahead at 1:11 of the second period and never looked back.

Midway through the middle frame, Burakovsky was penalized for holding as a scrum ensued, yielding matching minors for Alex Tuch and Compher– each for roughing– at 9:35.

Late in the resulting power play, Vegas worked the puck to Marchessault (4) for a one-timer from the faceoff dot to the right of the Colorado goaltender.

Once more, Grubauer was beaten on the far side– only this time Marchessault’s shot sailed under the glove of the Avs goalie.

Alex Pietrangelo (5) and Karlsson (5) had the assists on Marchessault’s power-play goal as the Golden Knights extended their lead to, 3-1, at 11:28.

Through 40 minutes of action at T-Mobile Arena, Vegas was dominating on the scoreboard, 3-1, and in shots on goal, 24-14, including a, 9-5, advantage in the second period alone.

The Golden Knights held the lead in takeaways (10-4) and giveaways (9-7), while the Avalanche led in blocked shots (15-7) and hits (37-31). Both teams managed to split faceoff win percentage, 50-50.

Colorado remained 0/1 on the power play, while Vegas went 1/3 on the skater advantage entering the second intermission.

Early in the final frame, Whitecloud sent an errant puck out of play, resulting in an automatic infraction and a power play for the Avalance at 1:54 of the third period.

The Avs did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Moments later, Marchessault (5) completed his hat trick with a one-timer setup by Smith through the crease as No. 81 for Vegas wrapped around the net and beat Grubauer from point blank after the Colorado goaltender had lost his stick.

Smith (4) and Karlsson (6) recorded the primary and secondary assists, respectively, on Marchessault’s third goal of the game– his first career postseason hat trick and the second hat trick in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Golden Knights franchise history at 6:02 of the third period.

Vegas had pulled ahead, 4-1, as a result.

Midway through the third, some controversy emerged as Patrick Brown (2) managed to poke a loose puck through Grubauer’s five-hole, but the initial call on the ice was that there was no goal due to incidental goaltender interference.

That was quickly overturned by an official review, which deemed that Brown had not done enough to merit an infraction and, thus, Vegas led, 5-1, with Reaves (1) and William Carrier (2) earning the assists at 13:13 of the third.

But that wasn’t enough to convince Avs head coach, Jared Bednar, as the Colorado bench boss used a coach’s challenge on the grounds that he believed that Brown had, in fact, interfered with Grubauer’s momentum while making the initial save.

Turns out, the refs didn’t agree as the call that was originally “no goal”, then overturned to a “good goal” remained a “good goal” as the new call was upheld.

Grubauer was already skating backwards and had too much momentum to keep the puck, if not himself alone, in front of the goal line.

Confused? Don’t be.

Vegas made it, 5-1, was the end result.

Colorado was assessed a bench minor for delay of game– having lost the coach’s challenge at 13:13 of the third period, but the Golden Knights didn’t score on the resulting power play, while Kiefer Sherwood served the penalty in the box for the Avalanche.

At the final horn, the Golden Knights had won, 5-1, and tied the series at 2-2 as a result.

Vegas finished Game 4 leading in shots on goal, 35-18, including an, 11-4, advantage in the third period alone, while also leading in giveaways (11-9).

Colorado wrapped up Sunday’s effort leading in hits (48-44) and faceoff win% (52-48), while both teams managed to amass 18 blocked shots each.

The Avs finished the night 0/2 on the power play, while the Golden Knights went 1/4 on the skater advantage.

Vegas outshot Colorado at home in Games 3 and 4 by a combined shot total of 78-38.

Or for another fun stat…

The Avalanche managed to last in Game 2 because of their first line. The Avs were stifled in Games 3 and 4 because of a lack of depth scoring and because the Golden Knights kept Colorado’s first line quiet– completely off the scoresheet– in the latter game.

The series is tied 2-2 heading back to Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado for Game 5 on Tuesday night.

Puck drop is expected a little after 9 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for the action, while those in Canada can catch the game coverage on CBC, SN or TVAS.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Rantanen lifts Avs over Golden Knights, 3-2, in OT

Mikko Rantanen drew a penalty less than a minute into the extra frame before scoring on the ensuing power play to give the Colorado Avalanche a, 3-2, win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 2 of their 2021 Second Round matchup at Ball Arena on Wednesday.

Philipp Grubauer (6-0, 1.66 goals-against average, .943 save percentage in six games played) made 39 saves on 41 shots against in the win for the Avs while becoming just the 10th goaltender in National Hockey League history to earn 10 consecutive postseason victories.

In addition, the Avalanche took command of a 2-0 series lead over the Golden Knights in light of Wednesday night’s win.

Meanwhile, Vegas netminder, Marc-Andre Fleury (4-4, 1.86 goals-against average, .924 save percentage in eight games played), stopped 22 out of 25 shots faced in the loss.

With the start in Game 2, Fleury joined Patrick Roy as the only goaltenders in league history to face 20 different postseason opponents.

Logan Thompson suited up as Vegas’ backup, while Robin Lehner (undisclosed) was given the night off and did not dress– not even for warmup.

Meanwhile, Nazem Kadri continued to serve his eight-game suspension for his blindside hit on St. Louis Blues defender, Justin Faulk, in Game 2 of Colorado’s First Round matchup with St. Louis.

Kadri has four games remaining in his suspension.

Ryan Reaves was out of the lineup for the Golden Knights– serving the first half of his two-game suspension for roughing/unsportsmanlike conduct against Ryan Graves in Game 1 against the Avs.

Brandon Saad (5) kicked off the night’s scoring after fanning on a shot that ended up trickling over the goal line through Fleury’s five-hole to give Colorado a, 1-0, lead early in the opening frame.

Samuel Girard (4) and Graves (5) notched the assists on Saad’s goal at 3:39 of the first period as No. 20 in burgundy and blue extended his goal scoring streak to five games.

Moments later, Nicolas Hague cut a rut to the penalty box for holding at 6:13, presenting the game’s first power play to the Avalanche, but Colorado couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Shortly after killing off Hague’s minor, Vegas exchanged their penalty kill unit for their power play unit as Alex Newhook was assessed a holding minor at 8:36 of the first period.

It didn’t take the Golden Knights long to score on the power play as Alec Martinez (2) sent a one-timer past Grubauer’s glove side— tying the game, 1-1, at 9:32.

Max Pacioretty (2) and Shea Theodore (3) had the assists on Martinez’s power-play goal as Vegas looked much more competitive than they had been in Game 1.

Pacioretty cut a rut to the box for holding at 11:45, but Colorado couldn’t convert on the resulting power play.

Minutes later, Jonathan Marchessault slashed Nathan MacKinnon and took a seat in the sin bin at 15:38 of the first period as a result.

The Avs nearly used up the entire length of the ensuing skater advantage, but pulled ahead, 2-1, on a power-play goal from Tyson Jost (2) at 17:08.

Girard (5) and Devon Toews (4) notched the assists on Jost’s tally.

The Avalanche got another chance on the power play at 17:50 when Theodore cleared the puck over the glass and received an automatic delay of game infraction, but Colorado struggled to get anything else on the scoreboard as the advantage expired and— shortly thereafter— the first period itself.

After 20 minutes of action at Ball Arena on Wednesday, the Avs were in command, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 11-9, in shots on goal.

Vegas led in blocked shots (12-10), giveaways (1-0), hits (9-7) and faceoff win percentage (74-26), while both teams amassed one takeaway each.

The Golden Knights were 1/1 on the power play, while Colorado was 1/4 on the skater advantage heading into the first intermission.

Midway through the middle frame, Reilly Smith (2) broke through Girard and Graves after Vegas forced a turnover before deking and elevating a backhand shot over Grubauer’s glove to tie the game, 2-2.

Marchessault (2) and Theodore (4) tallied the assists on Smith’s goal for the Golden Knights at 10:28 of the second period.

About a few minutes later, Patrik Nemeth caught Marchessault with a slash at 13:05, but Vegas was unsuccessful on the ensuing power play.

The score was tied, 2-2, heading into the second intermission, with the Golden Knights leading in shots on goal, 25-17, including an impressive, 16-6, advantage in the second period alone.

Vegas managed to dominate in blocked shots (18-7), takeaways (4-2), hits (19-18) and faceoff win% (63-38), while Colorado led in giveaways (5-1) after two periods.

The Golden Knights were 1/2 and the Avs were 1/4 on the power play through 40 minutes of play.

Alex Tuch slashed MacKinnon midway through the final frame of regulation, but the Avalanche were powerless on the power play at 10:08 of the third period.

Toews tripped Alex Pietrangelo at 16:39, but Vegas couldn’t get another one last Grubauer as their skater advantage came and went late in the period— despite using their timeout with 3:21 remaining to draw up a potentially game-winning play.

At the horn, the Avalanche and Golden Knights were heading for overtime in Denver as Wednesday night drifted into Thursday morning on the East Coast.

Vegas continued to lead in shots on goal, 40-23, through 60 minutes, including a, 15-6, advantage in the third period alone.

Meanwhile, Colorado led in giveaways (6-3) and hits (22-21) after three periods and the Golden Knights held the advantage in blocked shots (27-17) and faceoff win% (58-42).

Both teams managed to have five takeaways aside heading into the extra frame.

Vegas was 1/3 and Colorado was 1/5 on the power play after regulation.

44 seconds into overtime, Smith slashed Rantanen with a soft one-handed chop that might otherwise be seen as a “soft” call, depending on your vantage point as a fan.

Nevertheless, Colorado went on the power play less than a minute into overtime.

A little more than a minute later, after working the puck around the attacking zone and ringing the iron, Cale Makar sent the puck to MacKinnon for a spin move to throw off William Karlsson from making a defensive play in his own zone.

The Avalanche phenom then sent the puck across the slot to Rantanen (3) for the catch and release past Fleury’s short side— over the left shoulder of the Golden Knights goaltender and into the twine— to secure the victory for Colorado.

MacKinnon (5) and Makar (6) had the assists on Rantanen’s game-winning power-play goal in overtime at 2:07 of the extra frame.

The goal lifted Colorado over Vegas, 3-2, and marked the second career overtime winner for Rantanen in the playoffs, as well as his fourth career postseason game-winning goal.

Vegas finished the night leading in shots on goal, 41-25, despite trailing Colorado, 2-1, in overtime alone.

The Golden Knights also exited Ball Arena with the advantage in blocked shots (28-17) and faceoff win% (56-44), while the Avs led in giveaways (8-3) and hits (22-21).

Vegas went 1/3, while Colorado went 2/6 on the power play in Game 2.

The Avalanche improved to 6-0 in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and matched a franchise record for the longest winning streak at any point in the postseason, a club record previously set by the 1987 Québec Nordiques.

The Avs also became the third Presidents’ Trophy winner to start the postseason at least 6-0, joining the 1994 New York Rangers and 1999 Dallas Stars in doing so.

The Rangers went 7-0 to begin their quest for the Cup in 1994, while the Stars went 6-0 en route to winning their first Stanley Cup ring in 1999.

Colorado is in good company if they are to continue the trend, leading their Second Round series 2-0 heading into Vegas for Game 3 at T-Mobile Arena on Friday.

Viewers in the United States can catch the game on NBCSN, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS with puck drop expected a little after 10 p.m. ET.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Battle of the behemoths in the West set after Vegas downs Wild, 6-2, in Game 7

For the first time in Las Vegas, T-Mobile Arena played host to a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the 2021 First Round matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and Minnesota Wild did not disappoint.

Both teams swapped chances early and often before the Golden Knights pulled ahead in the second period and did not look back in their, 6-2, victory over the Wild to clinch the series 4-3 and advance to a Second Round matchup with the 2020-21 Presidents’ Trophy winning Colorado Avalanche.

Trade deadline acquisition, Mattias Janmark, notched a hat trick in the series clinching game, while Marc-Andre Fleury (4-3, 1.71 goals-against average, .931 save percentage in seven games played) made 18 saves on 20 shots against in the win for the Golden Knights.

Cam Talbot (3-4, 2.45 goals-against average, .923 save percentage in seven games played) stopped 28 out of 33 shots faced in the loss for the Wild.

Vegas was without Brayden McNabb (COVID protocol) on Friday, while Max Pacioretty made his series debut after missing some time due to injury.

The Golden Knights improved to 2-1 all time in Game 7s, while the Wild fell to 3-1 overall in Game 7s. Minnesota has never hosted a Game 7 on home ice.

Vegas head coach, Peter DeBoer, improved to 6-0 in Game 7s in his National Hockey League career behind the bench.

Friday night also marked the first Game 7 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montréal Canadiens heading to a Game 6 in the only remaining First Round series, leaving the door open for another Game 7 on Monday if the Canadiens can beat Toronto in Montréal on Saturday.

Midway through the opening frame Janmark (1) got a breakaway and drove to the net with two-hands corralling a forehand wrap around Talbot reminiscent of “the Forsberg” if Peter Forsberg had used both hands on the stick and stuck with his dominant shot instead of his backhand.

Nicolas Roy (1) and Nick Holden (4) tallied the assists on Janmark’s first goal of the night as the Golden Knights grabbed a, 1-0, lead at 5:09 of the first period.

Moments later, Roy checked Jonas Brodin along the wall and sidelined the Wild defender for the rest of the night in the process with an undisclosed injury.

Midway through the opening frame, William Karlsson was sent to the box for boarding against Jared Spurgeon at 10:32.

Minnesota did not convert on the ensuing power play– their first skater advantage of the night on Friday.

Moments later, Zach Parise (2) sent a no-look backhand shot between his legs and through Fleury’s five-hole to tie the game, 1-1, at 16:49 of the first period.

Joel Eriksson Ek (1) and Ryan Suter (1) had the assists on Parise’s goal.

Entering the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, despite Minnesota leading in shots on goal, 10-8.

The Wild also held the advantage in blocked shots (9-6), giveaways (2-1) and faceoff win percentage (56-44), while the Golden Knights led in takeaways (5-2) and hits (24-21).

Minnesota was 0/1 on the power play, while Vegas had yet to see time on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.

Nicolas Hague (1) sent a shot from the point through traffic– beating Talbot clean on the short side over the blocker– off of an attacking zone faceoff to put Vegas ahed, 2-1, at 2:05 of the second period.

Karlsson (3) had the only assist on Hague’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.

A couple minutes later, Ryan Reaves cut a rut to the sin bin for interference after he sent Suter face first into his own crossbar at 4:22 of the second period.

It didn’t take the Wild long to capitalize on the resulting power play as Kirill Kaprizov (2) sent a one-timer past Fleury while crashing the net as Mats Zuccarello fed the Minnesota rookie with a pass while skating through “Gretzky’s office” (no, not TNT) behind the net in the trapezoid.

Zuccarello (3) and Spurgeon (3) recorded the assists on Kaprizov’s power-play goal as Minnesota tied things up, 2-2, at 4:35 of the second period.

About a few minutes later, Pacioretty (1) put the Golden Knights in front for good– scoring the eventual game-winner on a one-timer from the slot after Shea Theodore sent the puck around the boards on a dump-in before Chandler Stephenson worked it to No. 67 in a Vegas uniform.

Stephenson (4) and Theodore (1) had the assists on Pacioretty’s goal as the Golden Knights took a, 3-2, lead at 7:44.

Midway through the middle frame, Ian Cole was penalized for interference, presenting Vegas with their first and only skater advantage of the night at 10:32.

Though the Golden Knights didn’t score on the power play, they did happen to catch the Wild in the vulnerable minute after special teams action as Zach Whitecloud (1) sent a catch and release shot over Talbot’s blocker on the far side from the faceoff dot to the left of the Minnesota netminder at 13:38.

Theodore (2) and Stephenson (5) notched the assists on Whitecloud’s goal as the Golden Knights extended their lead to, 4-2.

Moments later, Hague and Nick Bjugstad got tangled up and exchanged pleasantries, resulting in coincidental minor infractions for roughing at 17:09 of the second period and two minutes of ensuing 4-on-4 action to close off the first 40 minutes of action.

Through two periods of play, Vegas led, 4-2, on the scoreboard and, 25-16, in shots on goal, including a, 17-6, advantage in second period shots alone.

The Golden Knights led in takeaways (10-6), giveaways (5-3), hits (38-34) and faceoff win% (63-37), while the Wild led in blocked shots (17-12) entering the second intermission.

As there were no penalties that resulting in any skater advantages in the final frame, Minnesota finished the night 1/2 on the power play, while Vegas went 0/1.

Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway, Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault got involved in a bit of a scrum and each received matching roughing minors at 6:00 of the third period.

The four penalties were the final calls of the night and resulted in no skater advantages for either club.

Midway through the third, Janmark (2) redirected his second goal of the game past Talbot as Roy’s forecheck on Suter freed the puck for Vegas, leading to the goal.

Roy (2) had the only assist on the marker as the Golden Knights took a, 5-2, lead at 12:36.

With less than five minutes remaining in regulation, Wild head coach, Dean Evason, pulled Talbot for an extra attacker.

It did not go as planned for Minnesota.

Janmark (3) casually swiped at the puck with a one-handed backhand stroke while diving for possession and buried it into the empty net to give Vegas a, 6-2, lead at 16:53 of the third period– sealing the deal on a Game 7 win, as well as the series victory.

Alex Tuch (2) and Alex Pietrangelo (3) had the assists on Janmark’s hat trick goal– the first career postseason hat trick for Janmark, as well as the first hat trick in a Stanley Cup Playoff game in Golden Knights franchise history.

At the final horn, Vegas had won, 6-2, and eliminated the Wild in seven games, clinching the series 4-3 in the process.

Vegas also became the third franchise to win a playoff series in three of their first four seasons, joining the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues in the NHL history books.

The Golden Knights finished Friday night’s action leading in shots on goal, 34-20, including a, 9-4, advantage in the third period alone.

Minnesota finished the night leading in blocked shots (20-18) and hits (53-49), while Vegas led in giveaways (10-5) and faceoff win% (66-34).

The Golden Knights are now 2-1 in all time Game 7s after defeating the Wild on Friday and advanced to the Second Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs as a result.

Vegas will face the Colorado Avalanche in the next round with Game 1 scheduled for Sunday night at Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Wild hold off elimination in Game 5 win on the road

The Minnesota Wild only had 14 shots on goal Monday night, but they sure made the most out of them, beating the Vegas Golden Knights, 4-2, at T-Mobile Arena in Game 5 and forcing a Game 6 back in Minnesota Wednesday night.

Vegas leads the series 3-2 and can close things out on the road or the Wild can force a Game 7 later in the week in what would be a first for the Golden Knights– hosting a Game 7 in Vegas.

Minnesota goaltender, Cam Talbot (2-3, 2.42 goals-against average, .928 save percentage in five games played), made 38 saves on 40 shots faced for the win.

Marc-Andre Fleury (3-2, 1.40 goals-against average, .946 save percentage in five games) had 10 saves on 13 shots against in the loss for Vegas.

Once again, the Golden Knights were without Max Pacioretty in the lineup, while Minnesota made one change– replacing Carson Soucy with Calen Addison, who made his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut in the process.

Midway through the opening frame, Nick Holden sent the puck up through the neutral zone where Alex Tuch botched completing a pass, but instead tipped the rubber biscuit towards Mark Stone for Stone to retrieve and take into the attacking zone himself.

Stone (4) slipped through the defense and sent a shot under Talbot’s glove to give the Golden Knights the first goal of the game and an early, 1-0, lead at 8:14 of the first period.

Tuch (1) and Holden (3) had the assists on the effort.

Less than a minute later, however, the Wild responded.

Kirill Kaprizov forced a turnover in his own end, sent the puck to Mats Zuccarello, who then carried the rubber biscuit through the neutral zone, cut left and passed the puck back to Kaprizov in the slot.

From there, Kaprizov (1) wired a shot past Fleury’s glove side to tie the game, 1-1, and score his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal in the process.

Zuccarello (1) had the only assist on Kaprizov’s goal at 9:06 of the first period.

Almost three minutes later, Zach Parise (1) banked a wild carom from the endboards off of Fleury and into the twine to put Minnesota on top, 2-1.

Jonas Brodin (3) and Matt Dumba (2) tallied the assists on Parise’s goal as the Wild took the lead at 11:57 and later completed a span of three unanswered goals in the first period after giving up the game’s first goal.

Jordan Greenway (1) carried the puck into the attacking zone, through Vegas’ defense and followed up on his own rebound to make it, 3-1, Minnesota at 16:34.

Addison (1) had the only assist on Greenway’s goal in the process.

After one period in Vegas, the Wild led, 3-1, on the scoreboard despite both teams having mustered seven shots apiece.

The Golden Knights led in blocked shots (8-6), hits (22-20) and faceoff win percentage (57-43), while Minnesota led in takeaways (5-4) and both teams had three giveaways each.

Neither club had seen any action on the power play heading into the first intermission.

Dumba sent the puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game infraction at 7:52 of the second period and presented the Golden Knights with the first power play of the night.

Late in the ensuing skater advantage, Vegas defender Alex Pietrangelo setup Alec Martinez (1) for a goal from the faceoff dot over Talbot’s glove side.

Pietrangelo (2) and Chandler Stephenson (4) had the assists on Martinez’s power-play goal as the Golden Knights pulled to within one, 3-2, at 9:43.

Late in the period, Brodin hooked Reilly Smith and cut a rut to the sin bin at 16:33 as a result, but Vegas failed to convert on the resulting power play.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Wild led, 3-2, on the scoreboard, but the Golden Knights dominated in shots on goal, 29-8, including an astounding, 22-1, advantage in the second period alone.

Minnesota led in blocked shots (16-9) and takeaways (8-7), while Vegas held the advantage in giveaways (6-4), hits (34-31) and faceoff win percentage (51-49) entering the second intermission.

The Wild had yet to see a power play through two periods and the Golden Knights were 1/2 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame.

There were no penalties called in third period as the Golden Knights continued to dominate possession and generate shot after shot.

As the game clock counted down, Vegas head coach, Peter DeBoer, pulled Fleury for an extra attacker with about 1:46 remaining in the action.

Shortly thereafter, Nico Sturm (1) used the power of mathematics to angle the puck off the boards, deep into the attacking zone and into the empty net to provide an unassisted insurance marker, 4-2, at 19:21 of the third period.

At the final horn, Minnesota had won, 4-2, on the scoreboard, despite trailing, 40-14, in shots on goal, including an, 11-6, advantage for Vegas in the third period alone.

The Wild exited the building leading in blocked shots (23-13) and faceoff win% (52-48), while the Golden Knights led in giveways (11-6) and hits (48-44).

Only the Golden Knights had ever seen any action on the power play on Monday– going 1/2 in the process– while the Wild hadn’t seen any action on the skater advantage in Game 5.

Vegas leads the series 3-2 heading into Game 6 Wednesday night at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Golden Knights can eliminate the Wild on the road with a win and viewers looking for national coverage in the United States can tune to NBCSN, while fans in Canada can catch the game on SN or TVAS.

Puck drop is expected to be a little after 9 p.m. ET.