The Vegas Golden Knights are returning to the Stanley Cup Final.
After losing to the Washington Capitals in the 2018 Final, in their inaugural NHL season, the Golden Knights will play for Lord Stanley’s Cup in their sixth season of existence.
William Karlsson scored twice, Adin Hill stopped 23 shots and the Golden Knights defeated the Dallas Stars, 6-0, Monday night.
Prior to entering the playoffs in place of injured Laurent Brossoit, Hill had zero shutouts as a Golden Knight. He now has two after shutting out the Stars in Game 3 with a 4-0 win. Both shutouts were in Dallas.
The victory keeps owner Bill Foley’s original mantra alive, when he said “playoffs in three, Cup in six.”
“Bill’s a smart man, right?” Marchessault replied when asked if he knew about Foley’s prediction before Vegas had ever played a game. “He’s done a lot of good things right in his life, so we’ll see how it turns out.”
Many thought destiny was on Vegas’ side in 2018, a historic season for a first-year franchise, but the Capitals won four straight games after losing Game 1.
The Golden Knights will open the Stanley Cup Final against the Eastern Conference champion Florida Panthers on Saturday in Vegas.
The Golden Knights opened the Western Conference Final with three straight wins before the Stars bounced back to win Games 4 and 5 and push the series back to Dallas for Monday’s Game 6.
But the Stars didn’t have an answer.
“We played a lot harder and a lot simpler this game and it paid off,” said Karlsson, who has four goals in three series-clinching games this postseason. “Three in the first kind of set the tone. A huge part of why we won this game is because of (the fourth line).”
The Golden Knights wasted no time in putting Dallas on its heels in the first period, using their forecheck to stay aggressive and keep the puck in the offensive zone.
They did a good job of playing with pace, not passing up shots, getting pucks on the net, winning battles on the boards, and most importantly, finding the back of the net.
As it’s done the entire postseason, the fourth line showed how valuable it can be, producing two of three goals in the first period.
After winning Games 4 and 5 to stave off elimination, the Stars figured to be even stronger with the return of captain Jamie Benn, who was suspended during Dallas’ victories. Unfortunately, Benn’s line was horrendous through the first two periods, when Vegas did much of its damage to put the game out of reach, and was outshot 8-1.
William Carrier got things going just 3:41 into the first period when he took Keegan Kolesar’s feed through traffic skated around Oettinger and flipped a backhand into the net.
Vegas has now scored nine goals in the first five minutes of games during the playoffs, most of any team.
Midway through the period it was William Karlsson gathering the puck on a rebound and firing it past Oettinger to make it a two-goal game.
Less than four minutes later, it was the Carrier-Kolesar combo from the fourth line again, only in reverse. On a give-and-go into the zone, Carrier fired a shot in front of the net for Kolesar, who promptly fired it past Oettinger’s outstretched leg.
Vegas not only outshot the Stars 16-7 in the opening period, it outdistanced Dallas with high-danger chances, 9-0.
Jonathan Marchessault made it 4-0 when he buried a great pass from Ivan Barbashev midway through the second period, making it four straight goals from players who have been with the franchise since its inception.
Carrier, Karlsson and Marchessault were all on the team that went to the 2017-18 Stanley Cup Final.
Kolesar was at the team’s very first developmental camp at the Ice Center on West Flamingo Road – before City National Arena, the team’s facility was complete – and played with AHL Chicago the inaugural year.
“We have a character group in that locker room,” Jack Eichel said. “It’s been an awesome year. I’m just really proud to be a part of this organization. It’s good what we’ve done so far.”
Said Karlsson: “Best of the West, so let’s try to be best of the rest.”
W.G. Ramirez is a 36-year veteran sports reporter in Southern Nevada, serving as a staff writer for The Sporting Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @WillieGRamirez