Ducks take series over Knights with win in season finale

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
The Ducks finished their season on a high note with a big win over the Golden Knights in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS — Frank Vatrano scored a hat trick and Cutter Gauthier made a successful NHL debut as the the Ducks pulled out with a 4-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.

The victory ended the Ducks’ season at 27-50-5, gave them a season series win (3-1-0) over the defending Stanley Cup champions for the first time and threw the playoffs race in chaos. That is, until the Los Angeles Kings’ 5-4 overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks gave the Kings third place in the Pacific Division and left the Knights as the second wild card.

“I thought we played really well,” coach Greg Cronin said. “If I looked at the last 10 games, I don’t know what our record is, but I feel pretty confident we could have won any one of those 10 games.

“I don’t want to live in a woulda, coulda, shoulda world, but there’s enough evidence there that we did enough good things that gives me some confidence that we can expect that next year.”

Anaheim Ducks defenseman Radko Gudas (7) checks Vegas Golden Knights center Paul Cotter (43) during the second period at T-Mobile Arena. (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

“I think we played good games against these guys the whole year,” said Jakob Silfverberg, who played in his 820th and final NHL game. “We know they’re resting a few guys, but it doesn’t matter. I think we played a solid game.

“We’ve had some tough losses here of late, but it was nice getting the win tonight. Ending on a good note, it’s a lot more fun than losing.”

Though Silfverberg’s career is ending, Gauthier’s is just beginning. Gauthier made his NHL debut after signing his entry-level contract Sunday. He skated on a line with Alex Killorn and Leo Carlsson and the chemistry between Carlsson and Gauthier got better as the game progressed.

Gauthier’s collected his first NHL point as he was the primary assist on Jackson LaCombe’s goal, which gave the Ducks a 3-1 lead. An exchange between Carlsson and Gauthier behind the net gave the latter time and space to find LaCombe, who had activated from the left point. Gauthier’s pass hit him in stride and LaCombe’s one-timer beat goaltender Adin Hill’s blocker.


“It’s a pretty special feeling, you kind of dream of it as a kid,” Gauthier said of his first NHL point. “I was thankful to see that one trickle in at the end there. Just a great feeling.”

Vatrano’s hat trick goal culminated on an empty-netter with 15 seconds remaining as Hill was pulled for the extra attacker. He scored a goal at each strength (power play, even strength, penalty kill) en route to his fourth hat trick of the season.

Anaheim Ducks right wing Frank Vatrano (77) celebrates with defenseman Jackson LaCombe (60) and defenseman Radko Gudas (7) after scoring a third goal against the Vegas Golden Knights during the third period at T-Mobile Arena. (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Lukáš Dostál made 32 saves and completed his first full season as an NHLer with a 14-23-3 record. The Czech goaltender appeared in 44 games (38 starts) this season.

“Dostál was big in net and nice for Frankie to get his hat trick and Cutter to get his first apple,” Silfverberg said.

“He’s just a professional,” Cronin said of Dostál. “He’s prepared, he’s invested in his position. (Assistant goaltending coach) David Rook does a really good job with him.

“He’s a young kid and he probably played more games than he thought he was going to play, but he did terrific.”